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How to Protect Yourself From Malaria? Sleep Next to a Chicken

Jul 22, 2016 03:58 AM EDT

Sleeping next to a live chicken could be a natural way of avoiding mosquito bites, a new study suggested.

Scientists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia found that Anopheles arabiensis, one of the predominant species transmitting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, steer clear of chickens when looking for hosts.

According to the researchers, chickens are non-host species for the malaria-transmitting mosquito, and using their sense of smell, they could detect the presence of chickens and avoid them.

"We were surprised to find that malaria mosquitoes are repelled by the odors emitted by chickens," Rickard Ignell, study author, said in a press release.

"This study shows for the first time that malaria mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species, and that this behavior is regulated through odor cues."

In the study, which was published in the open-access Malaria Journal, the researchers tested their theory on three Ethiopian villages where people often share their living quarters with their livestock. They also collected blood-fed mosquitoes to trace the blood source.

In each of the houses, the researchers asked a single volunteer aged between 27 and 36 to sleep under an untreated bed net. Traps were set up in the room to get a count of the mosquitoes that flew in. The experiment lasted for 11 days.

The researchers found that significantly fewer mosquitoes were caught in traps baited with chicken odors taken from their feathers compared with traps containing compounds from other host animals.

Moreover, the researchers found that suspending a live chicken in a cage next to a trap had a similar repellant effect.

"People in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered considerably under the burden of malaria over an extended period of time and mosquitoes are becoming increasingly physiologically resistant to pesticides, while also changing their feeding habits for example by moving from indoors to outdoors," Ignell said.

"People in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered considerably under the burden of malaria over an extended period of time and mosquitoes are becoming increasingly physiologically resistant to pesticides, while also changing their feeding habits for example by moving from indoors to outdoors."

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