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Sunday, July 4, 1999

Clouding dust mites with a neem-based spray 

Vidya Deshpande  
For many, dust mites could be a dangerous sleeping partner. These invisible creatures are present in almost all household textiles, mattresses, upholstery, carpets and cushions. And between 5 and 30 per cent of the world's population suffer from dust mite allergies. Despite a clutch of pesticide-based sprays available in the market, to combat the dust mite, most are ineffective in controlling the dust mite population in your home.

The almost invincible dust mite, which is present everywhere, whether in the Buckingham Palace or your home, now has a powerful exterminator, Check Mite. The formulation made from the awesome Indian neem has a success rate like never before. And for allergy sufferers, it could well be like manna from heaven.

Patented by the Vittal Mallaya Research Foundation (VMSRF), Bangalore, CheckMite is waiting to hit supermarket shelves and cloud the mites out with its potent spray. Says Prof. P V Subba Rao, director of the Foundation and former head of the department of biochemistry,Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore: ``CheckMite has an acaricide of plant origin as the active ingredient, a disinfectant and a fungicide. All these ingredients are biodegradable, eco-friendly and safe to humans as well as domestic pets, even at very high concentrations.''

Field studies of CheckMite show that a single liberal spray eliminates all adult dust mites in 48 hours. A second spray after a week eliminates the emerging population from viable eggs and larvae. There is no re-establishment of mites on sprayed surfaces for up to eight weeks, says Rao.

Dust mites cannot be seen with the naked eye as they measure only 0.1 to 0.5 mm. An adult mite has a life span of three months and leaves behind 50 offspring. There are several species of dust mites, but the most common are Dermatophagodies pternyssinus and D farinae. Dust mites feed on scales shed from human skin and human hair. And a single mite produces excreta that is 200 times its body weight.

It is this excreta that is responsible for allallergies. The digestive juice from the mite gut in the faeces is the allergen that causes a wide range of allergic diseases from asthma, rhinitis, conjunctivitis and eczema. A typical used mattress may contain 10,000 to 10 million dust mites.

``The commercially available dust mite sprays are effective to some extent,'' says Rao. ``But they require a higher concentration to be more effective and the higher levels may be more toxic, which is of concern.'' CheckMite, he says, not only kills the adult mites and controls the mite population, but also reduces the allergen levels in the house.

The market survey done by the Mallaya Foundation indicates a huge potential market for the anti-dust mite spray. As per their calculations, 10-15 per cent of the children in Indian households suffer from dust allergies.

``This gives us a figure of 2.4 lakh households. Even assuming that 10 per cent of these households will buy the products, it would mean 24,000 cans a month,'' says Rao.

The spray will be priced at Rs150 for a can of 300 ml, he says. In addition to the domestic market, the Foundation has also sampled the international market and with over 13 crore people suffering from asthma worldwide, at least 2,22,000 cans, at a price less than $10, could be sold, even if 0.5 per cent of these allergy suffers bought the product, he says. However, the Foundation is yet to tie up with any commercial marketing organisation to sell its products.

If the Foundation is able to strike a good deal with a marketing company to retail its products, then dust mites and allergies may become a thing of the past, Rao promises.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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