How do you solve a problem like disease-carrying mosquitoes? That’s what the US government wanted to know as the Zika virus spread through the Americas earlier this year, leaving brain-damaged infants in its wake. To find the answer, USAID asked inventors around the world to submit ideas in a “grand challenge,” promising a total of $30 million to fund the most promising proposals. In nine weeks it received nearly 900 submissions, and last week announced it had winnowed the list down to 21 winners, the Washington Post reports.
Most of the proposed solutions, if they come to fruition, could also help combat dengue fever, chikungunya, malaria—and the next mosquito-borne epidemic to come our way, whatever it may be. Indeed, none of these ideas is likely to hold back the current wave of Zika in the United States, where more than 7,000 cases have been reported, but the awards could very well help scientists, inventors, and governments get ready for the next outbreak.
The suggested solutions include a mosquito-killing bacteria called Wolbachia; new, environmentally-friendly poisons that would help address the rising problem of pesticide resistance; a flip-phone app that could identify mosquito species; sandals and fabrics impregnated with repellent; and electric force fields. Summaries of all the winning proposals are available here.