Mosquitoes spreading malaria among humans have been found to avoid chickens and other birds, some Ethiopian and Swedish scientists have discovered.
The mosquito, Anopheles arabiensi, is a dominant vector of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. It is known to feed indoors and outdoors on human and other hosts, making it a difficult species to regulate with existing control methods.
Thus, finding new solutions to the mosquito peril, that killed about 400,000 people in Africa last year according to UN, is necessary.
“Investigating the mechanisms underlying the host discrimination process in Anopheles arabiensis could provide valuable knowledge leading to the development of novel control technologies,” the scientists said in their research.
While the World Health Organization (WHO)) acknowledged that Africa is making progress in fighting malaria, more has to be done because “mosquito resistance to insecticides used in nets and indoor residual spraying” persists. According to the international public health agency, the parasite is also resistant to “a component of one of the most powerful antimalarial medicines.”
The new research which included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net found that mosquitoes tended to avoid the area.
Mosquitoes spread malaria from person to person when the drink blood of an infected individual. Malaria parasite initially hides in the liver before going into the bloodstream.
The study which was published in the Malaria Journal concluded that since mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate a host they can bite, there must be something in a chicken’s odor that does not appeal to the insect.
“An. arabiensis avoids chickens despite their relatively high abundance, indicating that chickens are a non-host species for this vector,” read an extract from the study.
Habte Tekie from Addis Ababa University, who worked on the research, told the BBC that compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent.
He said that field trials for this stage of the research are now “in the pipeline”.
Other researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences were also involved in the project. They noted that compounds from chicken feathers were also used in the experiments, as well as live chickens.
They concluded that the use of chicken and the compounds “significantly reduced” the number of mosquitoes that were found in the trap nearby.
With mosquitoes developing resistance to insecticide “novel control methods” need to be invented and embraced.
Motivated by this fact and the need to fight other mosquito related diseases, two young Africans invented malaria fighting soap, Faso. The two enterprising young men used locally available insect-repelling herbs which they say have an effect on mosquitoes. They said the soap worked in two ways: it protected the users as well as the environment in which the waste water ended. The water contains substances that prevent the development of mosquito larvae.
With innovative ideas and continuous research in efforts to control the spread of malaria, the continent could rid itself of the disease. Already, six countries in the region could be free of malaria by 2020, according to the WHO.