Mosquito landing boxes in Tanzania
Researchers in Tanzania have chemically reproduced the stench of smelly feet in an innovative new approach to combat the spread of malaria in the country.
The scientific team at Tanzania’s Ifakara Health Institute has developed a potent serum — similar to that of human foot odor — to lure and kill mosquitoes, which can carry malaria and other diseases.
Four times more powerful in attracting mosquitoes than natural human odor, the synthetic smell is now being used in a pioneering research program aimed at killing mosquitoes outdoors using a “mosquito landing box…”
Mosquitoes are lured inside the boxes by the synthetic odor, which is dispersed by a solar-powered fan. Once inside, the insects are either trapped or poisoned and left to die.
“Substances we omit when we sweat, such as lactic acid, act as a signal to mosquitoes … The aim here was to produce a mixture that would mimic a human being.” The result, said Fredros Okumu, was a chemical blend that “smelt just like dirty socks…”
“This is a great example of an African innovator, with an African innovation, tackling an African problem,” said Dr Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada.
“Malaria kills about 800,000 people a year, mostly children, in Africa. At the moment existing technologies, such as bed nets and sprays, tend to repel mosquitoes inside the home.
“This technology attracts mosquitoes outside the home to kill them, and could be complimentary to what is there now,” Singer continued…
For Okumu, this is a personal as well as a scientific venture. Born in western Kenya, malaria has been apart of Okumu’s life for as long as he can remember.
“All the places I have lived have been malaria zones. When I was growing up I had malaria at least twice every year,” he said.
Most American and Europeans have little knowledge of this terrible disease. So many people die, so many children especially, it really is one of the grim reapers of African history.