• 07.25.16

Eau De Chicken Could Help Fight Malaria

Mosquitoes, it turns out, hate the smell of chickens.

Eau De Chicken Could Help Fight Malaria
[Photo: Flickr user USB]

You may be attracted to the smell of fried chicken like a moth to a flame, but it turns out that, for mosquitoes, it’s largely the opposite. The smell of (live) chickens may be repellent to some insect species, including the disease-carrying bugs.


A group of researchers from Ethiopia and Sweden have discovered that the smell of live chickens may be an effective way to repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In the experiment, a volunteer slept under a bed net in a house that contained mosquito traps. Mosquitoes were less attracted to the traps that had chicken odor compounds than ones that didn’t.

Suspending a live chicken cage near the trap had “a similar repellent effect,” according to a press release about the study, published in Malaria Journal.

Mosquitoes prefer human blood, but will also feed on other domestic animals. But they tend to avoid chickens, even when there are a lot around. It turns out odor is the main signal to mosquitoes to avoid these animals.

With mosquitoes become more resistant to pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa, the pressure is on to develop new ways to control their populations. Will everyone get a pet chicken to sleep with under the covers? Probably not. But it’s possible that scientists will be able to harness the odor compounds to develop new, more effective repellents.

Researcher Habtie Tekie of Addis Ababa University, which conducted the research alongside the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, told the BBC that field trials of a new repellent are “in the pipeline.”

Malaria is declining around the world, but there were still 214 million cases this year, killing 400,000. And at least chicken perfumes may be a much quicker strategy to continuing the downward trend than trials for a long-awaited malaria vaccine.


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About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.