Open source 3D printable replacement parts for the WHO insecticide susceptibility bioassay system

Parasit Vectors. 2019 Nov 14;12(1):539. doi: 10.1186/s13071-019-3789-9.


Background: Malaria vector control and research rely heavily on monitoring mosquito populations for the development of resistance to public health insecticides. One standard method for determining resistance in adult mosquito populations is the World Health Organization test (WHO bioassay). The WHO bioassay kit consists of several acrylic pieces that are assembled into a unit. Parts of the kit commonly break, reducing the capacity of insectaries to carry out resistance profiling. Since there is at present only a single supplier for the test kits, replacement parts can be hard to procure in a timely fashion.

Methods: Using computer-aided design software and widely available polylactic acid (PLA) filament as a printing material, we 3D designed and printed replacement parts for the WHO bioassay system. We conducted a comparison experiment between original WHO bioassay kits and 3D printed kits to assess congruence between results. The comparison experiment was performed on two Kenyan laboratory strains of Anopheles gambiae (s.s.), Kilifi and Mbita. Student's t-tests were used to assess significant differences between tube types. Finally, we exposed the PLA filament to common solutions used with the bioassay kit.

Results: We were able to design and print functional replacements for each piece of the WHO bioassay kit. Replacement parts are functionally identical to and interchangeable with original WHO bioassay parts. We note no significant difference in mortality results obtained from PLA printed tubes and WHO acrylic tubes. Additionally, we observed no degradation of PLA in response to prolonged exposure times of commonly used cleaning solutions.

Conclusions: Our designs can be used to produce replacement parts for the WHO bioassay kit in any facility with a 3D printer, which are becoming increasingly widespread. 3D printing technologies can affordably and rapidly address equipment shortages and be used to develop bespoke equipment in laboratories.

Keywords: 3D printing; Insecticide resistance; Mosquito profiling; WHO bioassay.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anopheles / drug effects
  • Biological Assay / instrumentation*
  • Biological Assay / methods
  • Insecticide Resistance*
  • Insecticides / pharmacology
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Malaria / transmission
  • Mosquito Vectors / drug effects*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation*
  • Software Design*
  • World Health Organization


  • Insecticides