ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian scientists have discovered that mosquitoes are repulsed by chicken’s smell, raising hopes for the development of a novel way to prevent malaria, a disease that kills hundreds of thousands every year.
A team of experts led by Professor Habte Tekie, at the University of Addis Ababa, began their investigation after noticing that mosquitoes bite humans and other animals but keep a distance from chickens. “We went into the chemical basis of odours, emanating from the chickens, repelling malaria mosquitoes and the results indicated of it having a good potential as repellent,” Tekie said.
One theory for such behaviour is that mosquitoes see chickens as a predator and avoids them, he said. Tests carried out in three villages in western Ethiopia showed that families that slept beneath a caged chicken were mosquito-free in the morning, while homes without indoor poultry were not.
The obvious challenges of sleeping with a bird suspended over the bed were addressed in a follow-up experiment in which villagers were supplied with vials of chicken extract. The results were similar.
The findings, recently published in the medical publication Malaria Journal, will be used in a new collaboration with Swedish scientists to develop an odourless repellent. “This repellent will be safe for human use, (with) no residues contaminating soil or water or poisoning people and it can easily be integrated into malaria control operations,” Tekie said.
Malaria threatens 60 percent of the Ethiopian population, a nation of almost 100 million people. There is currently no vaccine against malaria and the disease killed 438,000 people in 2015, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation.