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Chickens vs. Malaria

August 4, 2016

Compounds in chicken feathers repel malarial mosquitoes in Africa.

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10902510403_e75701c613_k Rod Waddington CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr, cropped

Livestock in Konso Village, Ethiopia. (Rod Waddington CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr, cropped)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Chickens vs. malaria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Malaria remains one of the most deadly diseases on the planet today. But it may have a formidible enemy: the chicken. Researchers report in Malaria Journal that the birds are a big turn off for Anopheles arabiensis, a malarial mosquito that’s gaining ground in Africa. Swedish University of Agricultural Science’s Rickard Ignell and his colleagues studied its feeding patterns.

RICKARD IGNELL (Swedish University of Agricultural Science):

The malaria mosquitoes were feeding on humans when we found them indoors and cattle when we found them outdoors, but never chicken.

HIRSHON:

Ignell says the insects likely view the birds as a threat. He and his colleagues identified four odor compounds in chicken feathers that successfully repelled mosquitoes away from sleeping volunteers. When used in combination with other methods, the compounds could be an effective way to deter mosquitoes from large areas. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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Story by Susanne Bard