Researchers trap malaria mosquitoes before they produce offspring

Trap malaria mosquitoes before they produce offspring
Trap malaria mosquitoes before they produce offspring | Courtesy of
For the first time, researchers targeting malaria have developed a strategy to trap and eliminate female mosquitoes before they produce eggs.

The researchers found a naturally occurring chemical called cedrol that acts as an attractor for pregnant, malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The chemical was discovered in mosquito breeding sites near Africa’s Lake Victoria. Scientists plan to use cedrol to attract and then kill female mosquitoes before they have an opportunity to lay hundreds of eggs.

The study -- a collaboration between the OviART research group, the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya, Durham University in the U.K., and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine -- proves that odor-based traps may be the key to preventing malaria's spread. Such traps could stop the malarial mosquito before it ever bites a human.

"For the past six years, we have been studying how the major malaria-transmitting mosquito in Africa selects which pool to lay her eggs in, and asking how that choice could be manipulated so we can intercept and kill her before she lays hundreds of eggs," ICIPE researcher Mike Okal said. "We found the mosquitoes were more than twice as likely to lay eggs in water infused with this particular soil than in water fresh from Lake Victoria." 

According to estimates from the World Health Organization, one child dies from malaria each minute. This finding could reduce the mosquito population and, potentially, reduce malaria rates.

"Many supposed attractants have been suggested in previous publications, but these were based on small scale laboratory studies which showed that the mosquitoes can sense these chemicals, and didn't show whether they affect mosquito behavior," ICIPE's Ulrike Fillinger said. "Our study for the first time has carefully demonstrated that egg-bearing Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes can detect the chemical cedrol and are drawn to it in real-world circumstances."

Fillinger said the next step in the study is to show how to use cedrol in traps as part of an "attract and kill" strategy to complement current vector control methods and to protect people from the deadly malaria parasite carried by these mosquitoes. 

More details can be found in the Malaria Journal.

Organizations in this Story

International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology

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