Magazine article Newsweek

Mosquito Trap Uses Human Scent as Bait; the Solar-Powered Device Seduces the Insects Using a Cocktail of Human Odors and Carbon Dioxide

Magazine article Newsweek

Mosquito Trap Uses Human Scent as Bait; the Solar-Powered Device Seduces the Insects Using a Cocktail of Human Odors and Carbon Dioxide

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Okamoto

The number of people sickened by malaria has fallen by 18 percent over the past 15 years, and the number of deaths due to the mosquito-borne illness has almost been cut in half, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates. These gains are largely credited to efforts to reduce malaria transmission indoors, using insecticide-treated bed nets and residual spraying. Yet even in areas where such tactics have been widely adopted, the number of new malaria cases remains high--because, as we all know, mosquitoes also bite outside. Reducing outdoor transmission is a key challenge in fighting this and other mosquito-borne diseases, including dengue fever and the Zika virus.

Researchers at Tanzania's Ifakara Health Institute may have a tool to help fix that. Instead of playing defense, as with bed nets, the researchers want to lure mosquitoes away from people by mimicking how people smell. They designed mosquito landing boxes, or MLBs--solar-powered baits that work by releasing a cocktail of human odors and carbon dioxide, which the Ifakara team produces cheaply by fermenting molasses with yeast. Carbon dioxide is irresistible to mosquitoes: We and other animals exhale this gas when we breathe. When mosquitoes, thinking they have found a blood meal, land on the decoy, they pick up a dose of insecticide. According to a study published in December in Malaria Journal, the team's decoy fooled 43 to 63 percent of recaptured mosquitoes, even in the presence of people. …

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