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Faso soap or antimalarial soap is really working?


Dear Knowledge Point members,

Maite posted this question in the SuSanA Forum (

Hi all,

I was wondering if any of you have some updates about the Faso Soap - The antimalarial soap. Is it really working? Could we purchase it, or fabricate it?

If someone has some additional information I would greatly appreciate!

Thanks so much,


Could someone of your help us with the answer?

Thank you very much and best regards,

Evelyn (on behalf of the SuSanA secretariat)

1 Answer


Posted on behalf of Jo Lines and James Logan of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

This product is receiving tons of attention in the media, and has won some 'social innovation' prizes. So far, however, there appears to be no clinical data demonstrating effectiveness, and I am not aware of any entomological data.

The ingredients have not been made public but include lemongrass, so it is possible to believe that there might be some effectiveness. On the other hand, the presence of lemongrass does not mean it probably works. Yes there are lots of essential oils that have some repellent activity, and that can be used against nuisance biting, but this doesn't imply effectiveness against malaria. Yes there are some trials showing that when effective skin-repellents are used as an addition to ITNs, they can give additional epidemiological protection against malaria. Some of the best evidence comes from Bolivia and Pakistan. But it's important to remember why they went to Bolivia, why they tried it in Pakistan: these are places where the local malaria vector Anopheles species bite very early in the night: transmission is more or less over by 9pm. You can't use that evidence to argue for probable effectiveness in Africa, where 80% of transmission still occurs between 10pm and 4am.

Years ago, there was a locally-produced soap formulation of the pyrethroid permethrin; there was some enthusiasm about it, and it was around for a few years, but without finding very widespread success. Soap can be a convenient and stable formulation to manufacture, but there is an obvious problem in use: you normally rinse soap off the skin quite thoroughly a few seconds after you put it on. You can advise people to lather it on and not rinse it off, let it dry on the skin, but will they do that?

In cases like this, the intention and the initiative deserve to be encouraged, and it is good to provide funding for testing. But we must be careful that enthusiasm for the idea and the research does not go too far. What I see, on some websites, is that the object of celebration is not only the idea and the research, but also the stuff itself, the product. There is no statement that the product has been tested and found to be effective, but equally there is no qualifying statement that effectiveness remains unknown or unproven. Several news websites report that the product contains a known repellent, and one university site refers to it as a "low-cost anti-malarial tool". So it is easy for a reader to assume that the product probably is effective, even if the formal trials are not yet complete.

It is obviously dangerous to rely on an untested product for protection against a deadly disease, and anything that might encourage people to do this is to be avoided. Let's celebrate the intention, but let's not assume a product really does protect against malaria until it ... (more)