Kenyan and Dutch scientists have designed a unique mosquito trap that uses human odour to attract the malaria-carrying insects, helping cut the number of cases dramatically.
The use of a newly-developed mosquito trap incorporating human odour has resulted in a 70% decline in the population of the most significant malaria mosquito on the Kenyan island of Rusinga.
After the introduction of the odour-baited traps on the island the proportion of people with malaria was 30% lower among those living in houses with a trap compared to people living in houses who were yet to receive a trap.
The success of the new approach is the combination of the odour-baited trap with mosquito nets, anti-malaria drugs, and a solid social strategy
The study was published today in The Lancet, a leading scientific journal. Prof. Willem Takken led the three-year study with Wageningen University scientists and researchers from the Kenyan International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE
The odour-baited trap may also offer a solution to diseases like dengue fever and the Zika virus. Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito), is a vector for these viruses. This mosquito is attracted to the same humanised scent that attracts malaria mosquitoes. Zika and dengue fever could therefore be combated with the odour-baited traps.
Every minute, a child dies of malaria. This disease costs Africa twelve billion dollars a year in health-care costs and lost productivity, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Fighting malaria without using insecticides is vital to world food production. “The effect of the disease on agricultural production is hugely underestimated,” says Willem Takken.
“As children with malaria need access to hospital care, their parents cannot work on the land and as a result food production rates decline. If those parents themselves also suffer from malaria infections four or five times a year, they are also not able to work for around six weeks. In such cases, extra labour needs to be brought in or the crop will be lost. An African household loses 10% of its annual incomes through malaria. It is for good reason that reducing the prevalence of malaria was included in the ten millennium development goals formulated by the UN.”
The odour-baited trap – named ‘the Suna trap’ – represents an effective and safe solution in the fight against the mosquito.