Malaria research finds that smells confuse mosquitoes
Researchers in the US have identified ‘smelly chemicals’ that confuse mosquitoes and inhibit their ability to sniff-out nearby humans.
Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide sensors to find humans by smelling their exhaled breath, but the newly developed odour molecules disrupt these senses.
It is hoped that the findings will lead to revolutionary new chemical treatments which could be used to develop new insect repellents and mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria.
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New treatments of this kind could also act as an alternative to DEET, a common repellent used in countries where the prevalence of malaria is high.
However, DEET is expensive, requires repeat applications and has shown some signs of resistance in the fight against malaria.
Although the theory of disrupting the sense of smell in mosquitoes in not new, it is currently only available in carbon dioxide traps.
These mainly come in the form of dry ice or gas cylinders but are not often used in developing countries because they are expensive.
Experts believe that if after further testing the new chemicals are found to be safe to use and cheap to produce they could be a major step forward in the fight against not only against malaria, but against other mosquito-borne diseases too.
The research team from the University of California tested the chemicals on three different types of mosquitoes which individually are responsible for spreading malaria, yellow fever and dengue and the West Nile virus.
Billions of people are infected with these illnesses every year and they are responsible for millions of deaths worldwide.