Solar mosquito traps produce electricity and fight malaria

Solar-powered mosquito traps are playing an important role in the battle of malaria and have contributed to a 30 per cent decline in the number of malaria infections on a Kenyan island.

A newly developed solar-powered mosquito trap has led to a 70 per cent decline in the population of malaria-carrying mosquitos on the Kenyan island of Rusinga. A total of 4,500 traps were installed between 2012 and 2015, resulting in a 30 per cent decline in the number of malaria infections.

The mosquito traps have proven successful thanks to what the researchers call a solid social strategy: solar panels were installed on the roofs of homes to power the mosquito traps but also to provide the homes with power for lights or to charge mobile phones.

This approach improved living conditions in the island by reducing the negative impacts of kerosene use, such as upper respiratory tract infections, and kerosene-related accidents. It also meant that children could study at home in the evenings thanks to the new lighting powered by the mosquito traps.

The traps attract the mosquitos by emitting human odour, and a solar-powered fan sucks the mosquitos into the trap. One of the biggest advantages of the newly developed traps is that they don’t require insecticides. As a result, they have no negative impact on the environment and are very unlikely to cause resistance among mosquitos. The odour-baited traps could even used to stop the spread of Zika and Dengue epidemics.

According to Wageningen University in the Netherlands, which partnered with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the Kenyan International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) on the SolarMal project, fighting malaria without the use of insecticides is vital to world food production.

One child dies of malaria each minute. The goal of the SolarMal project is to reduce the number of mosquitoes to a level where malaria transmission becomes insignificant, says Daniel Masiga, SolarMal lead researcher at ICIPE.

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