Having a chicken near you while sleeping could help protect you from malaria spreading mosquitoes, as scientists from Ethiopia and Sweden have discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds. The smell of chicken was found to repulse the dreaded insect.
According to a report by AFP, the study was prompted when a team of insect experts led by Professor Habte Tekie at the University of Addis Ababa noticed that mosquitoes bite humans and other animals but stay away from chickens.
“We went into the chemical basis involved in repelling malaria mosquitoes by odours emanating from the chickens… The results show that compounds from chicken have very good potential as repellent,” Tekie told AFP.
Researchers discovered that the use of the chickens and the compounds extracted from their feathers “significantly reduced” the number of mosquitoes.
One theory for their behaviour is that mosquitoes see chickens as a predator, so seek to avoid them, he said.
Tests carried out in three villages in western Ethiopia showed that families that slept beneath a chicken in a cage overnight were mosquito-free in the morning, while homes without indoor poultry were not. In some instance, live chicken in a cage was placed near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net.
The obvious challenges of sleeping with a bird suspended over the bed were addressed in a follow-up experiment in which villagers were supplied with vials of chicken extract. The results were similar. The chicken volatiles repel host-seeking malaria mosquitoes
The findings, recently published in the medical publication Malaria Journal, will be used in a new collaboration with Swedish scientists to develop an odourless repellent.
Professor Rickard Ignell, from the 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…
“There is a need to develop novel control methods. 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.”
However, Andrew Githeko, a chief researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in an interview with Daily Nation, warned that people should not have chicken in their bedrooms because they are unhygienic.
“What the study says is that we can explore more options to identify the specific chemical that repels the mosquito and make suitable potent repellents that are safe for use,”
- Olalekan Olonilua for encomium.ng