Scientists at the University of Texas at El Paso may have discovered a game-changing strategy in the fight against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and the key ingredient might be found in our everyday essentials.

In a breakthrough study reported by and published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers found that incorporating soap into certain pesticides increased their effectiveness by tenfold. Colince Kamdem, the lead author and assistant professor at UTEP’s Department of Biological Sciences, drew inspiration from the World Health Organization’s protocols, which recommend adding seed oil-based products to insecticides.

“Our study utilized three inexpensive, popular brands of soap in sub-Saharan Africa, where over 90% of malaria infections and deaths occur,” explained Ashu Fred, the first author of the study and a Ph.D. student. “All three brands of soap increased mosquito mortality from 30% to 100% compared to when the insecticides were used on their own.”

While malaria has not been a significant concern in the United States due to the specific heat requirements of the parasites involved, the global impact is substantial. Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk, and the ongoing rise in temperatures, attributed to human activities like the use of fossil fuels, is expanding mosquito-friendly environments.

As temperatures increase globally, the transmission rates of mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, Zika, and dengue, are expected to rise, as noted in a study published on the U.N.’s official website. In this context, finding innovative solutions becomes crucial.

The latest world malaria report by the World Health Organization indicates that malaria claimed over 600,000 lives in 2021, with children being the most affected. Mosquitoes are developing resistance to traditional insecticides, and the environmental impact of the chemicals used is a growing concern.

The UTEP researchers aim to leverage soap to develop a healthier insecticide for indoor use. Kamdem expressed optimism, stating, “There are unknowns as to whether such a formulation will stick to materials like mosquito nets, but the challenge is both promising and very exciting.”

As scientists continue exploring the link between rising temperatures and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, this soap-enhanced pesticide could emerge as a promising and environmentally friendly solution in the battle against malaria.

By Impact Lab