New trap catches over three times as many malaria mosquitoes

More than 400,000 people die of malaria every year, the majority of whom live in Africa. Many people sleep under mosquito nets impregnated with insecticide to protect themselves from malaria mosquitoes, but mosquitoes are becoming resistant to these insecticides. The MTego mosquito trap may offer a solution.

Malaria mainly affects children; two thirds of fatalities are under the age of five. People get malaria if they are bitten by a mosquito that is infected with a parasite. The parasite enters the body through the mosquito’s needle-like probe. A relatively new tool has been introduced to combat the malaria mosquito in the form of a mosquito trap. “But the first models are not effective enough yet; they can only mimic the signals that mosquitoes use to find a meal of blood: body odour and the CO2 that people exhale,” explains biomechanics expert Florian Muijres. “They cannot emit short-distance signals such as body heat and humidity. As a result, they have a relatively low capture rate of about three per cent.”

The MTego mosquito trap

So Wageningen University & Research’s Experimental Zoology and Entomology chair groups cooperated with TU Delft to design a trap that can also disperse heat and humidity.

“MTego means ‘trap’ in Swahili,” continues Muijres. Henry Fairbairn, a student of TU Delft, made the design.You can put the trap behind a plant in the corner of the room and it will emit a synthetic body odour created in a lab and heat produced by a small heating element. The MTego works without environmentally harmful insecticides, which is a great advantage in areas where malaria mosquitoes are resistant to these insecticides.”

High-speed camera images

Muijres and his colleagues monitored MTego traps in action using high-speed camera images, first in a laboratory setting in Wageningen and later in the field in Tanzania. “Mosquitoes behave most naturally under field conditions. Of course, the mosquitoes were not allowed to escape, so we placed the MTego traps in large cages. The camera images revealed that the mosquitoes move much closer to the new trap in comparison to the earlier models. Moreover, they remain in the vicinity of the new trap for longer, which means that they are drawn into the trap more often, and so many are captured before they can fly away. The MTego trap catches over three times as many mosquitoes as earlier scent traps such as the Suna trap. Wageningen University & Research used this trap in 2016 on the island of Rusinga in Kenya as part of a field trial using scent traps to combat malaria.”

The MTego trap could contribute to a considerable reduction in malaria mosquitoes and hence also the number of deaths. “We want to carry out a much larger field trial in the future to determine exactly what the effect is on malaria infections. Henry Fairbairn has established a company to supply the MTego trap to people in Africa. The new mosquito trap is used in a combination with solar panels and can be provided as a lease package.”