Science - October 3, 2011

Surinam malaria mosquito goes for the ankles

How does the Anopheles mosquito transmit malaria in Suriname? Better mosquito traps have to be developed to answer this question. Entomologist Helene Hiwat recommends having a trap with sweaty feet odour at ankle height.

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Surprisingly little is known about the Anopheles darlingi mosquito which causes Malaria in Suriname, says entomologist Helen Hiwat. Although many studies have been done into African malaria mosquitoes, much less information is available on Latin-American mosquitoes which cause Malaria.
The researchers do not know yet which of these mosquitoes cause the disease and how - where and when - they attack. So they need to catch these mosquitoes. Traditionally, there will be 'human landing collections', researchers who volunteer to expose their feet and legs to attract mosquitoes and to catch and examine them. The disadvantage of this method is its high cost and the probability of getting malaria. The alternative is to use traps.
Hiwat tested various traps often used for catching mosquitoes to see how effective they are for the Surinam malaria mosquito Anopheles darlingi. While the BG Sentinel is the best of these, none of the traps can give a good indication of the composition and dynamics of the man-biting mosquito population, she writes in the Journal of Medical Entomology in September.
Therefore, mosquito traps need to be improved to enable a better study into the biting behaviour of the mosquito. It appears that the Surinam mosquito aims for the feet and lower legs of humans. This knowledge will enable better traps for malaria mosquitoes to be made. Hiwat will reinforce the traps with specific odour substances in sweaty feet to attract malaria mosquitoes more effectively. Above all, the traps have to be laid low - at the height of our ankles. She would have to conduct subsequent research to find out if these traps are better in catching malaria mosquitoes. Hiwat is doing her PhD research at Wageningen University while working for the Malaria programme of the Ministry of Public Health in Suriname.

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