An Ethiopian study published Wednesday found that sleeping with a chicken can prevent malaria.
The mosquitoes which carry malaria are repelled by the smell of chickens, according to the research.
“We were surprised to find that malaria mosquitoes are repelled by the odours emitted by chickens,” Professor Rickard Ignell, one of the researchers involved in the study who is a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, told The Independent. “This study shows for the first time that malaria mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species, and that this behaviour is regulated through odour cues.”
The researchers took samples of blood from mosquitoes found in Ethiopia. The insects appeared to prefer the blood of humans who made up 69 percent of the mosquitoes’ meals, compared to cattle providing 18 percent, goats providing 3.3 percent and sheep providing 2 percent. The mosquitoes could “choose” a meal from 6,700 humans, 10,000 cattle, 3,200 chickens, 850 goats and 480 sheep. The study didn’t find a single example of an indoor chicken being bitten by a mosquito.
Having an indoor chicken appeared to reduce the chance of a human being bitten. Malaria is spread mainly by mosquitoes which drink the blood of an infected individual, then bite someone else.
“People in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered considerably under the burden of malaria over an extended period of time and mosquitoes are becoming increasingly physiologically resistant to pesticides, while also changing their feeding habits for example by moving from indoors to outdoors,” Ignell continued. “For this reason there is a need to develop novel control methods. In our study, we have been able to identify a number of natural odour compounds which could repel host-seeking malaria mosquitoes and prevent them from getting in contact with people.”
The study also identified four different compounds in chicken feathers which appear to actively repeal mosquitoes.
The research was published in the peer-reviewed Malaria Journal.
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