Could LED Bulbs Be Key to Fighting Insect-Borne Illnesses?

We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz in the medical world about how LED light is transforming the way we fight microscopic superbugs but how about ACTUAL bugs? It’s a well-known fact that certain kinds of light, specifically white, blue, violet and ultraviolet light are particularly attractive to insects. As a result, the light bulbs you use in your home can attract these creepy crawlies and increase your risk of catching diseases carried by insects.

As far-fetched as that might sound initially, Chagas disease, malaria, and certain protozoan parasites are just a few of the more well-known and especially deadly strains of diseases known as vector-borne diseases. This means that these virulent and dangerous illnesses are usually transmitted and spread via an animal or, in this case, an insect carrier like mosquitos, sand flies, and other bugs. Unfortunately, most of these insects are attracted to the same lights you turn on in your home every evening.

So how can LED lights help? Travis Longcore, an associate professor of spatial sciences at UCLA, has put a team of former students together to work on creating LED bulbs that will attract fewer insects but still maintain that crisp white light used in most indoor light fixtures. The results of their hard work have definitely paid off.

Initial tests of off the shelf LED and traditional bulbs resulted in the capture of over 5,500 mosquitos and represented 67% of the total insects caught. Then, using their newly redesigned customized LED bulbs, Longcore, and his team were happy to note that they saw close to a 20% decrease in the total number of insects caught overall. These customized LED bulbs also were brighter than the off-the-shelf LEDs meaning that overall they also provided better lighting capability.

These new bulbs will help to make a huge difference in places where glass and screened windows are uncommon, and the issue of vector-borne illness is particularly prevalent.

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