Smelly Socks May Prevent Malaria

Wacky research could save millions of lives

The scientific team at Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania has learned that the most effective way to attract mosquitoes to a device designed to trap and kill them is the odor of smelly socks or similar smelling synthetic bait developed at the Institute. Both the socks and the bait are highly effective and attract four times more mosquitoes than a human being does. Once the mosquitoes are in the device, they are trapped or poisoned and left to die.

Grand Challenges Canada is funding a grant to support further development of the innovative device to attract and kill mosquitoes that can transmit malaria. Developed by Dr. Fredros Okumu, the device is placed outside the home and is the outdoor complement to bed nets and sprays which protect people from infection in their homes. Dr. Okumu’s grant, funded jointly by Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will support research into testing and improving the device with the expectation it will be developed by the community in two years. 

“Despite global progress in the fight against malaria, there is still work to be done,” says Dr. Okumu.

“Each year, there are almost 250 million new cases of malaria; almost 800,000 people die, and most of those deaths are children,” says Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada. “This local Tanzanian innovation could contribute significantly to accelerating the elimination of malaria and save lives.”

This initiative is a demonstration of Grand Challenges Canada’s Integrated Innovation approach. Integrated Innovation is the coordinated application of scientific/technological, social and business innovation to develop solutions to complex challenges. 

Grand Challenges Canada is funded by Canada’s foreign aid budget. Canada is the first country in the world to take a grand challenges approach to international development. 

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