Researchers have found that a naturally occurring chemical that attracts pregnant malaria-transmitting mosquitoes – a discovery which could boost malaria control efforts.
The chemical, cedrol, found in mosquito breeding sites near Africa’s Lake Victoria, could be used in traps that would ‘attract and kill’ the female mosquito, preventing reproduction before she lays hundreds of eggs.
The work was published in the Malaria Journal by the OviART research group, a multinational team bringing together researchers from the Kenya-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology and Durham University.
Study author Mike Okal, PhD student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘To improve vector control and work towards malaria elimination, we need to look beyond blood-feeding to better understand mosquito behaviour at other times in her life.’
The OviART project followed the Anopheles gambiae mosquito’s journey: after a blood meal from a human, the female mosquito heads off to lays her eggs in a pool of still water. The team noticed that some pools would be full of larvae, while others remained empty.
While much research has been done into repellents and attractants of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes as they hunt humans for a blood meal, this is the first chemical confirmed to attract female mosquitoes after they have fed, while they search for a place to lay their eggs, and offers a new way to control mosquitoes.
A child dies every minute from malaria, according to World Health Organization estimates.
In Africa, malaria parasites carried by the female Anopheles gambiae mosquito are responsible for most of those deaths.