Albuquerque Journal – August 15, 2016

Tucumcari-based inventor Robert Hockaday has created a new, wearable mosquito-repelling device that could take the bite out of today’s growing Zika virus.

Hockaday, a physicist, mechanical engineer and all-round inventor, created his new BugBling to help combat mosquito-borne diseases by never getting bit in the first place. The patented device, which uses a combination of chemical and botanical repellents, can be worn as a wrist or ankle band, or can be clipped onto clothes, providing up to 800 hours of continuous protection against mosquitoes.

Robert Hockaday in Tucumcari with BugBling repellent wrist band he invented. (Courtesy of NMSU)
Robert Hockaday in Tucumcari with the BugBling repellent wrist band he invented. (Courtesy of NMSU)
New Mexico State University’s Molecular Vector Physiology Lab conducted two sets of tests on the device in 2014 and 2015. NMSU found the BugBling performed much better than some of the best-selling wearable mosquito repellents currently on the market, including today’s top-selling products Invisiband and OFF ClipOn.

“The tests showed the BugBling is up to three times more effective than those two products,” Hockaday said. “The tests measured the reduction of attractiveness to mosquitoes and found the BugBling reduced that to about 10 percent. The others performed at between 30 percent and 50 percent.”

Hockaday applied in May for Environmental Protection Agency approval to sell the device in the U.S., a process that could take about nine months. In the meantime, he’s working with businesses in other countries to begin selling in markets with fewer regulatory hurdles, such as South Korea and especially Brazil, where the Zika virus is particularly widespread.

The EPA’s regulatory review is largely a procedural requirement to begin sales because the BugBling uses repellents that are already sold on the market today.

It’s the particular mix of chemical and botanical repellents – plus the way those ingredients are packaged for steady emission through a wearable membrane, or filter – that constitute Hockaday’s secret sauce.

The BugBling uses a combination of DEET – the most common mosquito repellent in the U.S. since World War II – and Lemon Eucalyptus plant oil. The two together provide a lot more repellent bang for the buck than if used individually, Hockaday said.

The real innovation, however, is the membrane where the repellents are contained, which steadily releases scents from the mixture to surround the user with an armor of odor against mosquitoes. Like all mosquito repellents, the odor interferes with a mosquito’s keen sense of smell.

“The membrane provides a precise delivery rate of the chemical, or scent, which confuses mosquitoes and they stop hunting,” Hockaday said.

Unlike repellent sprays or creams, there is no contact with the skin, allowing consumers to avoid the discomfort or concern about rubbing sticky chemicals on their body. In addition, with topical repellents, the effect can wear off fairly rapidly, whereas the BugBling provides continuous protection for more than a month, Hockaday said.

NMSU tested the BugBling for Hockaday through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, a state-funded initiative that provides technical support for local businesses at NMSU, the University of New Mexico and the state’s two national labs. The Hansen Vector Physiology Lab used a wind tunnel to standardize airflow, with caged mosquitoes located near a person wearing repellent. The lab then measured and compared mosquito reactions using Hockaday’s product and commercially available repellents.

“The BugBling band strongly repels mosquitoes and proved to be superior compared to the other devices we tested,” said Immo Hansen, the biology professor who conducted the tests, in a prepared statement. “In fact, it was the only device that had a significant effect in our tests.”

The tests used Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, one of two known Zika carriers. But, apart from Zika, the repellent is intended as general protection against mosquitoes to help lower the incidence of diseases caused by bites, such as malaria, or dengue or yellow fever.

Hockaday is distributing free BugBling prototypes at events for feedback from users while he pursues EPA approval for commercial sales. The device is now available in wearable bands and clips-ons. As it begins to enter the market, Hockaday will create more products, such as repellent ornaments, floor mats, and wearables for pets and livestock.

Some members of the U.S. Olympic golf team are now using the BugBling in Brazil.

NMSU’s Arrowhead Center Inc., which assists startup businesses in commercializing new technologies, is providing technical support to help develop Hockaday’s business strategy, and connect with potential investors and partners.

“We’re always open to new ideas to solve issues in more effective ways,” said Arrowhead program manager Griselda Martínez Cereceres. “Robert has an innovative product that testing has shown to be superior than others on the market. We want to help him as he pushes forward.”

Hockaday is a former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who formed his own company in 1996, Energy Related Devices. He’s been working on developing new, miniature fuel cells and solar cells since then.

But, in 2007, a customer hired him as a consultant to create tools to lure and trap mosquitoes, which got his innovative wheels turning in the opposite direction – to create a new, more effective repellent. He’s now spinning out BugBling into a new company, Zing Devices Inc.

He recently acquired an old ethanol factory in Tucumcari, where he’ll mix BugBling repellents and assemble the wearable devices.

Hockaday presented his product at Technology Venture Corp.’s Deal Stream Summit last year. He’s now seeking funds for the march to market.

Original Article

Reuters Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:57pm EDT

Top health officials expressed heightened concern on Monday about the threat posed to the United States by the Zika virus, saying the mosquito that spreads it is now present in about 30 states and hundreds of thousands of infections could appear in Puerto Rico.

At a White House briefing, they stepped up pressure on the Republican-led Congress to pass approximately $1.9 billion in emergency funding for Zika preparedness that the Obama administration requested in February.

“Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

And so while we absolutely hope we don’t see widespread local transmission in the continental U.S., we need the states to be ready for that,” Schuchat added.

Zika, linked to numerous cases of the birth defect micocephaly in Brazil, is spreading rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The White House said last week in the absence of the emergency funds it will redirect $589 million, mostly from money already provided by Congress to tackle the Ebola virus, to prepare for Zika before it begins to emerge in the continental United States as the weather warms.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said if Congress does not provide emergency Zika funding, U.S. officials likely would be forced to redirect money currently dedicated for research into malaria, tuberculosis and a universal flu vaccine.

“I don’t have what I need right now,” Fauci said.

Hopefully the funding crimp will never reach a point where the stopgap money runs out, but if it does, he said, “we’ll have to start raiding other accounts, and very important research in other diseases is going to suffer, and suffer badly.”

Schuchat said Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that primarily transmits the virus, is present in about 30 states, rather than 12 as previously thought. In the U.S. territory Puerto Rico, there may be hundreds of thousands of Zika infections and perhaps hundreds of affected babies, she added.

Fauci said it appears the first Zika vaccine candidate is on target to enter initial clinical trials in September.

Schuchat declined to forecast the number of Zika infections that could occur in the United States. While she said she did not expect large outbreaks in the continental United States, “we can’t assume we’re not going to have a big problem.”

Schuchat said Zika is likely to be a problem during much of a pregnancy, not just not just during the first trimester as previously believed.

As Brazil prepares to host the Olympic games in August, the CDC has recommended that pregnant women avoid traveling to the country.

“We also want people to know that travel to the area may lead to ‘silent’ infections or infections with symptoms, and that following infections, it’s very important to take precautions during sex not to spread the virus,” Schuchat said.

The World Health Organization has said there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads that can result in developmental problems, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis, though proof may take months or years.

Brazil said last week it has confirmed more than 1,046 cases of microcephaly, and considers most to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.

Rio de Janeiro (CNN), December 23, 2015

That’s the message for would-be parents, especially in the country’s northeast, after officials linked a mosquito-borne virus called Zika to a surge in newborn microcephaly, a neurological disorder that can result in incomplete brain development.

“It’s a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that’s what we’re recommending,” Angela Rocha, the pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Brazil’s hardest-hit state, told CNN.

Behind Brazil’s outbreak

More than 2,400 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported this year in 20 Brazilian states, compared with 147 cases last year. Doctors are investigating 29 related infant deaths.

Microcephaly results in babies being born with abnormally small heads that cause, often serious, developmental issues and sometimes early death.

As a result, six states have declared a state of emergency. In Pernambuco state alone, more than 900 cases have been reported.

“These are newborns who will require special attention their entire lives. It’s an emotional stress that just can’t be imagined,” Rocha said. “Here in Pernambuco, we’re talking about a generation of babies that’s going to be affected.”

When the cases of microcephaly started to soar last month, doctors noticed they coincided with the appearance of the Zika virus in Brazil. They soon discovered that most of the affected mothers reported having Zika-like symptoms during early pregnancy — mild fever, rash and headaches.

On November 28, Brazil’s Health Ministry announced that during an autopsy it had found the Zika virus in a baby born with microcephaly, establishing a link between the two.

“This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research,” the ministry said on its website.

Research continues to determine if Zika actually causes microcephaly and further establish an association.

Initially concentrated in northeastern Brazil, many cases of microcephaly have now been detected in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to the south, fueling fears across the country.

Patricia Compassi, from Sao Paulo state, has received an outpouring of support and sympathy on social media after she opened up on national television about her son Lorenzo, born with microcephaly in November.

“It’s been very difficult because initially the ultrasounds were normal,” she told Globo TV in an interview. Early in her pregnancy, she woke up with a rash all over face and achy joints — symptoms that doctors initially attributed to a food allergy and now associate with Zika.

Toward the end of her term, doctors determined her baby would be born with microcephaly.

“There are days that I cry, but just looking at him gives me strength,” she said.

Where Zika came from and where it can go

Zika fever was first discovered in Uganda in the 1940s and has since become endemic in parts of Africa. It also spread to the South Pacific and areas of Asia, and most recently to Latin America.

It was detected in Brazil early this year. Some doctors believe tourists from Asia or the South Pacific introduced it during the 2014 World Cup.

There are concerns it could continue to spread north, but at this point, the virus is known to be transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which thrives in tropical climates. In the United States that type of mosquito is only found in small numbers in Texas, Florida and Hawaii.

Aedes aegypti is the same mosquito responsible for the spread of yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya.

Zika is hard to detect, and there often aren’t any symptoms. Brazil’s Health Ministry says there have been anywhere between a half million and 1.5 million cases in the country in the latest outbreak.

Both the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization have issued alerts in relation to the outbreak of Zika in Brazil and other countries in Latin America.

Federal and local governments have ramped up efforts to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito and encouraged people — especially pregnant women, to lather on insect repellant and stay indoors.

In Rio de Janeiro, the host city for the 2016 Olympics, officials said they have already made more than 9 million house visits to eradicate the stagnant pools used as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and are monitoring 391 pregnant women who are suspected of having Zika infections.

With the hot, rainy summer just beginning, the concern is Brazil could see a big spike in Zika. And while it could take months or even years before researchers determine if mosquitoes are really to blame, they are encouraging families to avoid risks and hold off on those pregnancies.