Solar powered mosquito trap offers hope for combating malaria

A newly-developed, solar powered mosquito trapping system (SMoT), which is baited with a synthetic odour blend that mimics human odour, has led to a 70% decline in the populations of Anopheles mosquitoes, the most significant malaria-transmitting species, in Rusinga Island, western Kenya. In addition, households using SMOTs have recorded malaria infection rates that are 30% lower than those not using the technology.

The technology was developed by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya and Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and implemented in partnership with the Swiss Tropical Public Health Institute, Switzerland and the Rusinga Island community. It was tested in a project known as SolarMal between 2012 and 2015, with more than 4200 households on the Island benefitting from the SMoTs.

The researchers report the findings from their trials in a paper published in The Lancet, a leading scientific journal, on 10 August 2016.

New odour-baited, solar powered mosquito trap offers hope for combating malaria
Fitting of a solar powered mosquito trapping system (SMoT) in a homestead on Rusinga Island.

Dr Daniel Masiga, SolarMal lead researcher at icipe noted: “In Africa, malaria control largely depends on the use of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs), and disease management using approved drugs. However, mosquito vectors are increasingly becoming resistant to insecticides, and also adapting to feeding outside, which reduces the effectiveness of nets.  Therefore, new, complementary approaches are urgently needed, if efforts to eliminate malaria by 2030 are to succeed. The goal of SolarMal is to reduce the number of mosquitoes to a level where malaria transmission becomes insignificant.”

“Our objective was to investigate whether malaria-transmitting mosquitoes can be captured and destroyed using traps to minimise malaria infections,” explains Prof. Willem Takken of Wageningen University, The Netherlands and SolarMal project leader. “Ultimately we want to contribute towards total eradication of malaria in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner. As we are using a natural lure - namely human odour – there is no negative impact on the environment and it is very improbable that the mosquitoes will become ‘resistant’ to being captured. After all, the mosquitoes need their attraction to the lure in order to be able to survive.”

Mrs Jane Okong’o, Chair, Rusinga Island Community Advisory Board, adds: “We are grateful to partnered with the researchers in the implementation of The SolarMal project, and to have contribute to its success.  In addition to the reduction of malaria cases, we have noted a myriad of other benefits from the project.”

Because the SMOTs are solar based, they have become a source of green energy for the Rusinga Island community, leading to a reduction in the negative impacts of kerosene use, such as upper respiratory tract infections, and kerosene related accidents. Children are also able to study at home during the evenings due to availability of lighting from the SMOTs. The technology has also elicited a saving culture, with approximately 100 women groups involved in saving towards sustaining the maintenance of SMoTs.

Notes for Editors

  • Publication details: Homan T., Hiscox  A., Mweresa C.K., Masiga D., Mukabana W. R., Oria P., Maire N., Di Pasquale A., Silkey M., Alaii J., Bousema T., Leeuwis C., Smith T.A., Takken W. (2016). The effect of mass mosquito trapping on malaria transmission and disease burden (SolarMal): a stepped-wedge cluster-randomised trial. Available at: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30445-7/abstract

 

  • Research Partners: the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya; Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and the Swiss Tropical Public Health Institute, Switzerland. The researchers would like to specially acknowledge the contribution of the contribution of the Rusinga Island community, as a critical component of the success of the study.

 

  • Funding: The SolarMal project was funded through the Food for Thought campaign of the Wageningen University Foundation.

 

  • Corresponding author: Prof. Willem Takken, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, Email: Willem.Takken@wur.nl

icipe Contacts