Smelly socks may rid mankind of malaria scourge

Smelly socks can lure four times as many malaria-spreading mosquitoes than are drawn to people into a trap, which can then kill the bloodsucking creatures with a lethal dose of insecticide, scientists in Tanzania have found.

Combined with the use of mosquito nets and mosquito repellents, it is hoped they could drastically reduce the transmission rate of malaria, one of the biggest killers in the developing world.

Scientists first came up with the idea after seeing how mosquitoes were more attracted to the odour of filthy feet than to live humans sleeping in the same area.

They persuaded a number of volunteers to donate socks they had worn for at least ten hours. They then placed them inside canvas and wooden boxes hung with insecticide-laced drapes outside people”s homes in rural southeast Tanzania.

Dr Fredros Okumu of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, who is leading the two-year project, says that mosquitoes work through smell rather than sight so could not tell the difference between the trap and real humans before it was too late.

“In their attempts to get blood from these devices, between 74 to 95 per cent of all of those who landed in them got killed,” he said.

“We”re hoping this will be a worthwhile and significant addition to the malaria control arsenal,” he added.

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