The sweaty feet of 48 Dutch men are central to efforts to find a way to reduce malaria, which kills 1.2 million people every year, Trouw reports on Tuesday.
Wageningen University entomology professor Willem Takken is poised to travel to Kenya in an effort to test out his idea, which uses synthesised extracts of the smell to draw mosquitos carrying malaria into traps. By reducing their number, the professor hopes to reduce infections.
Takken and his colleagues have already used a similar approach to the tsetse fly which spreads sleeping sickness, the paper says.
Mosquitos need blood to lay their eggs and track humans down by their smell.
To find out which smells they like best, Takken followed 48 men for a year, who were put on strict diets for part of the time.
The men were given marbles to role over their feet and collect the smell. These were placed in a wind tunnel with mosquitos to find out which were most popular. A mixture of the most successful smells will now go on trial.
Field experiments using the foot-scented mosquito trap will take place on the Rusinga island in Lake Victoria and were funded by a charity. The island, with a population of 30,000, is too remote for more mosquitos to arrive when those already there are killed, the professor says.
‘Of course, you cannot get rid of all the mosquitos,’ the professor tells Trouw. ‘But if we can reduce 100 infections a day to one, then we have gone a very long way. And we can. I am 99% certain of that.’