Sleeping next to a live chicken can keep mosquitoes from sucking the life out of you.
Scientists have discovered that mosquitoes steer clear of areas where they detect odor emitted by fowl such as chickens. It’s a natural mosquito repellant that has the potential to help with the malaria pandemic that puts 3.2 billion people around the world at risk.
Researchers tested their theory by having volunteers between the ages of 27 and 36 sleep in beds surrounded by mosquito nets. Mosquito traps were set up in the room so that researchers are able to count how many flew in. When a cage with a live chicken or chicken feathers were hung adjacent to the bed, the insects tend to avoid the area.
Anopheles arabiensis, one of the main mosquito species known for transmitting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, also avoid chickens when searching for potential hosts to suck blood from. Though mosquitoes are known to bite humans, they also enjoy feeding on cattle, goats and sheep.
However, they actively avoid flying near chickens that they’re able to sense through their smell. Author of the research, Rickard Ignell, explained:
“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.”
In 2015, malaria, the mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites affected 214 million people worldwide. Symptoms of malaria are often flu-like, but when left untreated can develop into serious and fatal complications. The findings from the research were published in the Malaria Journal in hopes of helping those at risk for contracting the disease.
“People in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered considerably under the burden of malaria over an extended period of time and mosquitoes are becoming increasingly physiologically resistant to pesticides, while also changing their feeding habits for example by moving from indoors to outdoors.
“In our study, we have been able to identify a number of natural odour compounds which could repel host-seeking malaria mosquitoes and prevent them from getting in contact with people.”