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Scientists Trick Mosquitoes to Stop Spread of Malaria

Scientists Trick Mosquitoes to Stop Spread of Malaria

Wednesday, 20 October, 2021 - 06:45
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito feeds on a human host. (AP)

Scientists have figured out how to trick mosquitoes into drinking a toxic beet juice they think is human blood by tweaking its smell, which could stop the spread of malaria.

A Swedish company says it has perfected a new way to get rid of disease-carrying mosquitoes by tricking them into drinking poisoned juice. Researchers with the start-up Molecular Attraction isolated a molecule known as HMBPP, which is present in blood infected with the malaria parasite. According to The Daily Mail, HMBPP releases a smell that attracts mosquitoes and stimulates them to drink more blood.

"It turns out that HMBPP can force mosquitoes to drink almost anything, as long as the pH is right," Molecular Attraction CEO Lech Ignatowicz told Fast Company.

The researchers tempted mosquitoes with a potent combination of beet juice mixed with HMBPP and plant-based toxins. The mosquitoes happily fed on the faux blood and all died shortly after.

"The big advantage is that HMBPP doesn’t attract other insects or other species. So you can use it as a passive way of convincing mosquitoes to eat toxins," Ignatowicz said. Since HMBPP actually attracts mosquitoes, far less of it is needed than the more harmful pesticides that are sprayed over entire neighborhoods.

Nowadays, the biggest problem in mosquito control lies in the task of attracting them to the traps, the company said in a statement on its website.

This unique composition is attractive exclusively to the five Anopheles species of mosquitoes, which are the exclusive vectors of the malaria parasite. Other attractant products either need an electrical source or spread carbon dioxide, which disrupts the surrounding biosphere.

While Molecular Attraction is eager to market the bug-killer, it’s determined to make it “accessible and affordable,” according to Ignatowicz, so that it can help vulnerable countries.

The agency recommended widespread use of the RTSS malaria vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline for use in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high levels of malaria transmission, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives a year.

Millions of people are infected every year and about 400,000 die, many of them children under age five. Plasmodium falciparum, the deadly parasite that causes malaria in humans, is believed to have been in existence for more than 50,000 years.

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