Scientists from Ethiopia has reportedly discovered that mosquitoes are repulsed by the smell of chicken, raising hopes for the development of a novel way to prevent a disease that kills hundreds of thousands every year.
Professor Habte Tekie led a team of insect experts at the University of Addis Ababa who began their investigation after noticing that mosquitoes bite humans and other animals but stay away from chickens.
“We went into the chemical basis involved in repelling malaria mosquitoes by odours emanating from the chickens… The results show that compounds from chicken have very good potential as repellent. One theory for their behaviour is that mosquitoes see chickens as a predator, so seek to avoid them”. Tekie said.
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.
Tests carried out in three villages in western Ethiopia showed that families that slept beneath a chicken in a cage overnight were mosquito-free in the morning, while homes without indoor poultry were not.
The findings, recently published in the medical publication Malaria Journal, will be used in a new collaboration with Swedish scientists to develop an odorless repellent.
“This odourless repellent as reported by them, 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,” He said.
The scientist said the chicken stock with a difference will be “entirely natural,” and the chance of mosquitoes developing resistance will be “minimal”.