Carl Lowenberger

Buy a bed net, save a life this Christmas

November 27, 2008

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This Christmas, for just 10 bucks you can buy perhaps the most gratifying present you’ll ever give: an insecticide-treated mosquito bed-net that will save a vulnerable child’s life in Africa.

That’s the idea behind UNICEF’s Spread the Net campus challenge, which SFU biologist Carl Lowenberger’s lab is spearheading at the Burnaby campus for a second year, in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Sciences.

The national campaign co-chaired by comedian Rick Mercer and former MP Belinda Stronach aims to raise $5 million in three years to buy 500,000 treated bed nets for families in malaria-plagued Liberia and Rwanda.

Last year, SFU raised $8,400 for Spread the Net, placing fourth among 73 teams from 35 university and college campuses. This year, Lowenberger aims to raise $25,000 and win first place, earning SFU a starring role in an upcoming episode of Mercer’s CBC TV show The Mercer Report.

And he’s putting hundreds of his own mosquitoes on the line—or rather his arm—to succeed.

"We raise 2,000-3,000 mosquitoes a week in our lab," explains Lowenberger, a Canada Research Chair in parasitology and disease vectors at SFU, Canada’s only university that works with both malaria and dengue fever vectors and pathogens.

"So I’m setting up a mosquito cage in the south AQ concourse on Dec. 5 from 11:30 am to 1 pm and for every $10 raised I will put another mosquito in the cage to feed on my arm."

"Plus we’re issuing special certificates with every net purchase, which make perfect Christmas gifts."

SFU’s mosquitomeister is also issuing Rick Mercer a challenge on YouTube ( "Come here and we’ll both put our arms in a cage full of mosquitoes for the cause. We’ll even use male mosquitoes in your cage. They don’t bite."

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