What do mosquitoes like more than clean, human skin? Stinky socks. Scientists think the musky odor of human feet can be used to attract and kill mosquitoes that carry deadly malaria. The Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday that it will help fund one such pungent project in Tanzania.Finally, a use for male teenagers; production of foot odor.
If they can be cheaply mass-produced, the traps could provide the first practical way of controlling malaria infections outside. The increased use of bed nets and indoor spraying has already helped bring down transmissions inside homes.
Dutch scientist Dr. Bart Knols first discovered mosquitoes were attracted to foot odor by standing in a dark room naked and examining where he was bitten, said Dr. Fredros Okumu, the head of the research project at Tanzania’s Ifakara Health Institute. But over the following 15 years, researchers struggled to put the knowledge to use.
Then Okumu discovered that the stinky smell — which he replicates using a careful blend of eight chemicals — attracts mosquitoes to a trap where they can be poisoned. The odor of human feet attracted four times as many mosquitoes as a human volunteer and the poison can kill up to 95 percent of mosquitoes, he said.
Okumu received an initial grant of $100,000 to help his research two years ago. Now the project has been awarded an additional $775,000 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada to conduct more research on how the traps should be used and whether they can be produced affordably.That should buy a whole lot of stinky socks.