Kawandama Hills Plantation (KHP)-a 6,500 hectare plantation located in Viphya Plantation-has made the first global para-Menthane, 3, 8-diol (PMD)-based sanitiser called Virisafe, which will help reduce the transmission rates of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Malawi and the entire African region.
KHP has disclosed this in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.
In the statement, the plantation says the development follows a United Kingdom's Government report that finds PMD-also known as Citriodiol-an active ingredient effective in deactivating lipid enveloped viruses, such as the coronavirus, that causes Covid-19.
According to the statement, PMD or Citriodiol is a natural ingredient used mainly in insect repellents and is derived from the oil of the Corymbia citriodora tree, more commonly known as lemon eucalyptus.
"Scientists at the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) carried out tests in two different ways and found the ingredient to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
"The scientists assessed PMD's anti-viral capabilities when applied directly to the virus as a liquid drop and also analysed it after applying to synthetic skin," the statement reads in part.
It further says the UK company that makes Mosiguard insect repellent using citriodiol (PMD), sources much of its lemon eucalyptus from Malawi's own KHP.
The press release goes on to state that, due to the relationship with the UK company and knowledge the directors of KHP in Malawi had around PMD, they always anticipated this positive result that enabled their plantation to make Virisafe which, among many other relevant stakeholders, has been endorsed by the Ministry of Health and Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) in the country.
The statement then quotes the Director of KHP, Tanya Clarke, who describes the product as a break through in the fight against Covid-19 in Malawi and in making natural sanitisers.
"Malawi is the first country worldwide to make a PMD based sanitiser and we have worked hard to make a product that feels and smells great.
"There are too many chemical products out there right now and with people constantly reapplying we wanted to make something more nourishing, but also one that works as an antiviral. A 90% efficacy rate for 4+ hours is excellent really".
Apparently, KHP started trial formulations on Virisafe in March, 2020 when it was clear the new coronavirus was likely to hit Malawi as well.
Malawi actually registered the first Covid-19 case on 2 April, 2020.
There has been a rapid rise in the number of confirmed cases since then with 5,576 reported as of 1st September, 2020.
Since March, KHP has trialed formulation, bottle types for leak-proof quality and designed labels in order to get the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) certification-and now they have MBS pre- certification.
Nyasa Times has seen two letters endorsing Virisafe-one from the Ministry of Health and another from MUST.
The one from the Ministry of Health, dated 29 July, 2020, is signed by a senior government health official.
It reads in part, "The Ministry of Health continues to engage with Kawandama Hills Plantation and the Ministry of Trade and Industry to ensure high quality local production in Malawi and we are confident that the advantages of this product will go a long way in protecting health workers and the public against Covid-19".
On the other hand, the one from MUST, dated 14 July, 2020, is signed by Dr Gama Petulo Bandwe, Head of the Biological Science Department.
And it says, "PMD is a very effective active ingredient which has proven antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties even at very low concentrations. Importantly, PMD has proven specific activity against SARS-CoV which is physically identical to SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVI0-19.
"PMD also has a long lasting residual effect and will provide lasting protection after application. We therefore support and endorse the usage of PMD as an active ingredient for sanitizer formulations in Malawi and approve Kawandama Hills' Virisafe products".
According the KHP press release, Virisafe hand, mask and surface sanitiser sprays are now available in Malawi shops to help in the fight against the virus and to provide a nurturing alternative to the overwhelming wave of imported products.
It adds that, since the sanitizers are a personal protection tool, they should be used together with face-masks, PPE and other measures.
The statement further says, Virisafe is available at Kawandama Hills container outlets in Lilongwe and Kasungu, Kapani in Lilongwe, and Chipiku shops, nationwide.