A new trap that emits heat and humidity catches over four times more malaria mosquitoes than previous traps. This is the result of research conducted by Wageningen University & Research (WUR). Excellent news for those living in the many malaria regions in Africa, as combatting mosquitoes is the best way to reduce the number of malaria victims.
The trap, called M-Tego, was designed by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in collaboration with the TU Delft. The device is currently being further developed by PreMal. 'It is particularly the heat the trap generates that provides added value', says Florian Muijres. Together with Antoine Cribellier and others, he used high-speed cameras to study how the trap captures mosquitoes. Muijres: 'The heat coaxes the mosquitoes to approach the trap, that then sucks them in so that they cannot escape.'
Closer to the trap
Mosquito trapping is a relatively new method to fight malaria, based on the cues that mosquitoes use to locate a blood meal: body odour and CO2. However, the percentage of mosquitoes captured with previous traps was still relatively low. The researchers reasoned that the lack of short-distance signals, such as (body) heat, might be the cause.
The research, published in the Malaria Journal, shows that adding short-distance signals does indeed bait the mosquitoes to approach the trap closer. Moreover, they remain in the vicinity of the trap for a longer period of time, which causes more mosquitoes to be captured by the trap. 'It won't eradicate malaria,' says Muijres, 'but it can certainly contribute to reducing it.'
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 400 thousand people died from malaria in 2018, mostly in Africa. The disease affects children, in particular. Two-thirds of the victims are under 5 years of age. Malaria is contracted through bites of mosquitoes infected with a parasite, which enters the human body through the puncture wound.
Malaria can be cured with medication, but can also be prevented by stopping mosquitoes from infecting humans—the WHO considers this the most efficient strategy. In high-risk areas, many people sleep under mosquito nets sprayed with insecticides.
However, mosquitoes develop resistance to these insecticides. 'We see an increase in instances of malaria in certain areas', Muijres states. 'Moreover, insecticides damage the environment'. Thus, an insecticide-free trap may have a significant added value in areas where mosquitoes have developed resistance.
This study was conducted by Wageningen University & Research in collaboration with the Technical University Delft, PreMal BV and the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania.