Researchers at Kao Corporation’s Personal Health Care Products Research Laboratory and Material Science Research Laboratory have developed a surfactant spray that neutralises mosquitoes’ water-repellent capabilities without the use of insecticides, Intelligent Living wrote.

Mosquitos are carriers of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, and Japanese encephalitis.

However, traditional insecticides could pose health risks to humans, leading researchers to look for safer alternatives, the 16 July report said.

In addition, a mosquito’s body and wings are covered in micro- and nano-scale structures that repel water, a characteristic known as being hydrophobic. This attribute, along with a wax-like covering, allows water droplets to roll off their bodies.

By tapping into the mosquito’s physiology, Kao researchers had found a solution, Intelligent Living wrote.

Following its earlier study into the use of silicone oil in controlling mosquitoes, Kao expanded on this technology in its latest research project, the report said.

The study focused on creating a surfactant – a substance that can decrease the surface tension of fluids – that could dampen the insects’ body and wings and manipulate their flight.

Comprising hydrophobic (water-repelling) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) components, surfactants are commonly found in cleaning agents and cosmetics.

Following earlier studies using surfactants on house flies, the research team examined the use of similar methods on mosquitoes, selecting surfactants known to be safe for human contact.

Unlike the application of water – which mosquitoes could shake off due to their physiology – using a surfactant solution had a major impact, the report said.

In addition, the researchers studied the insect’s body – specifically its spiracles, small openings for respiration.

Using a low surface tension solution, they found it caused the mosquitoes to fall and also blocked their spiracles. Without oxygen, the mosquitoes died.

As well as acting as an alternative to traditional insecticides, the research team said mosquitoes were unlikely to develop resistance to the surfactant solution.

“We envision spraying these solutions using sprayers and sprinklers,” the researchers were quoted as saying.

The findings were published in Scientific Reports journal earlier this year.