Catching the sun, to catch mosquitos
Although the Zika virus may be in the headlines a lot lately, malaria is still a much more common mosquito-borne illness. That's why in many parts of the world, insecticides are used to kill the disease-carrying mozzies. Unfortunately, however, the insects can develop a tolerance for the chemicals, plus there are environmental factors to consider. Now, solar-powered traps are showing great promise, in a pilot project that took place in Kenya.
The recently-completed three-year "SolarMal" project was led by Prof. Willem Takken of the Netherlands' Wageningen University, working with colleagues from the Kenyan International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. The village in which the study was conducted is located on the island of Rusinga, in Lake Victoria.
Each trap was situated in a family home, and was baited with a chemical that simulates human body odor. This initially drew the mosquitos close. They were then sucked up by a 12-volt fan, and were captured in a net within the trap. There, they ultimately died of dehydration.
Because Rusinga lacks a central electrical infrastructure, the fans in the traps were powered by solar panels that were added to the roofs of the homes. These panels additionally provided power for lighting, and the charging of mobile phones.
Overall, use of the traps resulted in a 70 percent decline in the population of the most significant malaria mosquito on the island. Additionally, the proportion of people suffering from malaria was 30 percent lower in houses with the traps, than in houses that had yet to receive them.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal The Lancet. More information is provided in the following video.
Source: Wageningen University