Smelly socks may help fight malaria

19 July 2011 13:39

A mosquito trap that smells like human feet could help fight malaria

A mosquito trap that smells like human feet could help fight malaria

New research suggests efforts to eradicate malaria may be bolstered by an unusual mosquito snagging tool - stinky socks.

Researchers in Tanzania have found that four times as many mosquitoes are attracted to a trap that smells like feet, than to an actual human.

Dr Fredros Okumu from the Ifakara Health Institute has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada to develop a commercially viable trap.

If the project is successful it could help tackle malaria and save lives in many areas where the disease is endemic. Visitors to these regions may also avoid potential medical travel insurance claims.

Dr Okumu says he developed a chemical that has a odour matching that of human feet by combining eight different compounds. It is sprayed inside the device to attract mosquitoes.

Once trapped, the mosquitoes are poisoned with another chemical found to be effective in killing up to 95% of the insects.

Dr Okumu said his research builds on the work of Dutch scientist Bart Knols who discovered 15 years ago that smelly feet attract mosquitoes.

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