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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Updated on 11/04/2017

Vector control

Biocidal product assessment

Keywords : Vector control (VC), Insecticides, Biocides, Mosquitos

Primarily due to climate change and the globalisation of trade, the re-emergence of vector-borne diseases (malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, etc.) has recently seen an increase. In the absence of any vaccine or treatment against these diseases, curbing their insect vectors, especially through the use of insecticides, remains the primary means of control. To be effective and sustainable, control of these insects must be based on alternating the use of active substances with different modes of action, in order to limit the development of insecticide resistance in these insect vectors. In this context and to ensure that public vector control operators have a wide range of products at their disposal, the Agency assesses the effectiveness and risks of use of these products, both in the regulatory framework applicable to all biocidal products and in the framework of specific vector control waivers for use.

There has been a re-emergence of vector-borne diseases over the last several years due mainly to climate change and the globalisation of trade. The diseases involved include malaria in French Guiana and Mayotte, dengue in the French départements in the Americas, Reunion Island and the Pacific region, and chikungunya in the Indian Ocean. In 2015, the Zika virus also became an emerging disease in South America before spreading to Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique.

The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is the vector for several of these diseases, and has been present in metropolitan France since 2004. Imported and indigenous cases of dengue, chikungunya and Zika are regularly detected in metropolitan départements. In this context, and in the absence of a vaccine or treatment against these diseases, curbing their insect vectors, especially through the use of insecticides (biocides), remains the primary means of control.

In France, the use of biocides in governed by European regulations. ANSES is responsible for the assessment of biocidal products in accordance with these regulations, and for delivering marketing authorisations. The main objective of this regulatory framework is to ensure a high level of protection for humans, animals and the environment by limiting the marketing of biocidal products to those that have been proved effective and that do not present unacceptable risks.

However, as the deployment of these regulations is currently in progress, the regulatory framework for biocidal products is being implemented gradually. Therefore, in certain cases where it is essential to rapidly obtain vector control products whose risks have been assessed, ANSES is asked to assess the risks of use of active substances or biocidal products for vector control outside the regulatory framework or in the context of a waiver for use. This has occurred several times over the last twelve years. In this context, the Agency has issued a number of opinions and reports, including one on the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (during the chikungunya epidemic in 2006 and the Zika epidemic in 2016), and one on a waiver for use of insecticides as a substitute for deltamethrin or for Bti (fenitrothion or  temephos in 2006-2007, malathion in 2014).

Another example was the fight against the Zika epidemic that struck the French départements in the Americas. The High Council for Public Health (HCSP) recommended that France file a request with the European Union for a waiver for the use of mosquito nets treated with long-lasting deltamethrin. This was due to the fact that certain deltamethrin-treated mosquito nets are endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent vector-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitos. In France, since no marketing authorisation applications for these mosquito nets have been filed, they cannot be used in compliance with the Biocides regulation.

Because of this situation, ANSES was asked by the Ministry of Ecology to provide an opinion on the feasibility of using mosquito nets treated with long-lasting deltamethrin under a waiver for use, as provided for under Article 55.2 of the Biocides regulation. Based on the available data and considering the effectiveness of these nets as compared to the risks they may cause to human health or to the environment, the Agency concluded in early 2016 that the use of this type of mosquito net could be authorised. It recommended however that these mosquito nets be attached to the beds of newborns and young children in such a way that they remain out of reach, in order to avoid mouthing of the nets. It also recommended only using those mosquito nets whose effectiveness has been validated by WHO, and strongly recommended not washing the nets, due to the high toxicity of deltamethrin for aquatic life.