Stinky feet may lead to better malaria traps

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 00:00

Zee Media Bureau

London: For fighting the menace called Malaria, researchers and health officials have devised many ways like insecticides, bed nets and drugs. And now they have come up with a unique way: the stench of human feet, which can become a powerful tool to avert this deadly disease.Well this might be surprising but the result has come out after many studies and researchs.

In their study,researchers found that mosquitoes infected with the tropical disease were more attracted to human odours from a dirty sock than those that didn`t carry malaria. Insects carrying malaria parasites were three times more likely to be drawn to the stinky stockings.

This new finding may help create traps that target only malaria-carrying mosquitoes, researchers say.

Dr James Logan, who headed the research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine joked and said "Smelly feet have a use after all,". "Every time we identify a new part of how the malaria mosquito interacts with us, we`re one step closer to controlling it better."

The sock findings were published last month in the journal, PLoS One.

More than 600,000 people die every year, mostly children in Africa due to Malaria. It was long known that mosquitoes are drawn to human odours, but it was unclear if being infected with malaria made them even more attracted to us. Infected mosquitoes are believed to make up about 1 per cent of the mosquito population.

Using traps that only target malaria mosquitoes could result in fewer mosquitoes becoming resistant to the insecticides used to kill them. And it would likely be difficult for the insects to evade traps based on their sense of smell, scientists say.

"The only way mosquitoes could (develop resistance) is if they were less attracted to human odours," said Andrew Read, a professor of biology and entomology at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not part of Logan`s research. "And if they did that and started feeding on something else -- like cows -- that would be fine."

Read said the same strategy might also work to target insects that carry other diseases such as dengue and Japanese encephalitis.

In a related study, Logan and colleagues also sealed human volunteers into a foil bag to collect their body odour as they grew hot and sweaty. The odours were then piped into a tube next door, alongside another tube untainted by human odour. Afterwards, mosquitoes were released and had the option of flying into either tube. The insects buzzed in droves into the smelly tube.

Logan said the next step is to identify the chemicals in human foot odour so that it can be made synthetically for mosquito traps. But given mosquitoes` highly developed sense of smell, getting that formula right will be challenging.



First Published: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 23:52

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