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Want To Avoid Malaria? Try Sleeping With A Chicken: Study Report


Scientists have come up with a surprising way to avoid getting malaria - sleeping with a chicken next to the bed. A study in Ethiopia found that while mosquitoes have a taste for human blood, they are repelled by the smell of chickens.

Testing the blood in mosquitoes that had recently fed, researchers from Sweden and Ethiopia, found just one out of nearly 1,200 had bitten a chicken with people and cattle seeming to bear the brunt of the insects' attentions. Malaria is spread mainly by mosquitoes.

One of the researchers, Professor Rickard Ignell, of Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said: "We were surprised to find that malaria mosquitoes are repelled by the odours emitted by chickens. "This study shows for the first time that malaria mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species, and that this behaviour is regulated through odour cues." The researchers, including academics from Addis Ababa University, took blood samples from mosquitoes that had just fed indoors and outdoors.

Cattle were the most fed upon animal outdoors with 63% of mosquitoes being found to have sucked their blood. Twenty per cent had sucked human blood with five per cent feeding on goats and 2.6% on sheep. The researchers found just one mosquito with chicken blood. The researchers identified four "chicken-specific compounds" - isobutyl butyrate, naphthalene, hexadecane and trans-limonene - found in their feathers that appeared to have a repellent effect. They also said the chicken feathers posed a physical barrier to mosquitoes and noted the birds "will actively feed on mosquitoes". Mosquito traps were set up in 11 homes for 11 days with a volunteer agreeing to sleep under an untreated bed net nearby. Significantly fewer mosquitoes were caught in traps baited with the chicken compounds.

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