Healthy living * Travel health

Smelly feet used to trap deadly mosquitoes

Smelly feet used to trap deadly mosquitoes Can't resist the smell

Tanzanian scientists are using the smell of smelly socks to lure malaria-carrying mosquitoes to their death.

Dr Fredros Okumu at the Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania, has developed a mosquito trap containing a bait with a smell similar to that of smelly socks.

The trap is placed outside homes and is meant to complement bed nets and sprays already in use to protect people from mosquitoes that can carry malaria and other diseases.

Field tests carried out by researchers at the Institute found that both the socks and synthetic bait attracted four times more mosquitoes than actual humans do.

Once mosquitoes enter the trap, they are killed off by an insecticide or fungus.

Dr Okumu has been awarded a grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada to carry out further research into improving the traps.

The team at the Ifakara Institute came up with the idea of using the odour of smelly socks after seeing how mosquitoes were attracted to them.

Local volunteers at Ifakara donated socks they had worn for at least 10 hours which were then placed inside boxes laced with insecticide.

As mosquitoes are attracted by smell rather than through sight, once they were trapped inside the box, it was too late to make an escape.

"Malaria has claimed so many lives, including those of people close to me, and my hope is that this innovative device will be part of the solution," Dr Okumu said.

Dr Peter Singer, chief executive of Grand Challenges Canada, said: "Each year, there are almost 250 million new cases of malaria; almost 800,000 people die, and most of those deaths are children.

"This local Tanzanian innovation could contribute significantly to accelerating the elimination of malaria and save lives."

This article was published on Wed 13 July 2011

Image © Yaroslav Gnatuk -

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