by Megan Flowers, ELCA Malaria Campaign intern
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The ELCA Malaria Campaign works to fight malaria with companions and partners in Africa through education, prevention, and treatment. These prevention methods and treatments are available and effective because scientists across the world continue to conduct extensive research on new medications and methods to eradicate malaria. Some of the newest and most innovative ideas include a perfume for cattle, mosquito genetics, and larvae-eating fish.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, a Californian pest management company has developed a spray that will attract and confuse mosquitos into heading towards cattle instead of people. The scented spray has lasting effects, keeping the cattle smelling like humans for several weeks to months. The cattle can be treated with insecticide in addition to the perfume, so the mosquitos will die upon biting the host. The pheromones are ultimately intended to irreversibly disrupt the life cycles of the mosquitos.
A recent story in Science Daily discusses experimentation around mosquito genetics and reproduction. Scientists in London have modified the sperm of mosquitos to carry mostly male Y chromosomes, causing them to reproduce almost exclusively males. This is key to malaria because it is only the female Anopheles mosquito that passes the disease along to humans. In the first lab tests, 95 percent of the offspring were male. In addition, the lack of females caused the entire experimental population to cease existence within six generations.
In India, the Gambusia affins, or mosquito fish, feeds on the insect's larvae that float on the surface of the water. Researchers are contemplating releasing them into standing pools of water, where mosquitos breed. The fish is rather small – measuring between 1.25 and 2 inches long. Even so, it is capable of consuming larvae in amounts nearly 40 times its weight! It is said to be affordable (with a cost of less than one US dollar per fish) and easily bred in the home.
The world continues to fight malaria in many different ways. From cattle and DNA, to nets and insecticides, we are all working to save the lives of over 600,000 people every year. Each of these innovative ideas has complications to overcome as research is continued. Will cattle be harmed as they draw the attention of more mosquitos and are continuously sprayed with insecticide? What are the repercussions of potentially wiping out the mosquito population? Yet, even with issues to be resolved, these concepts bring freshness to the challenge of eliminating this disease and preventing it from taking any more human lives.