Smelly feet used as a trap for mosquitoes?

London: African scientists claim to be developing a new trap for malaria-spreading mosquitoes, using the odour of human feet to lure them in, which they say could help drastically reduce the transmission rate of the disease.

A team at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania says that the traps would be able to attract up to four times as many mosquitoes as to humans themselves, and then kill the bloodsucking creatures with a lethal dose of insecticide.

Malaria is one of the biggest killers in the developing countries. Each year, there are almost 250 million new cases of malaria and almost 800,000 people die, according to the World Health Organisation.

In fact, the scientists first came up with the idea after seeing how mosquitoes were drawn to smelly socks.

They persuaded a number of volunteers to donate socks they had worn for at least 10 hours. They then placed them inside canvas and wooden boxes hung with insecticide-laced drapes outside people`s homes in rural southeast Tanzania, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.

Dr Fredros Okumu, who is leading the two-year project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grant Challenges Canada, said mosquitoes work through smell rather than sight so could not tell the difference between the trap and real humans before it was too late.

"In their attempts to get blood from these devices, between 74 to 95 per cent of all of those who landed in them got killed. We`re hoping this will be a worthwhile and significant addition to the malaria control arsenal," he said.

The scientists now want to establish whether socks themselves or a synthetic version of their smell work best and whether the devices cut the number of times people are bitten.

They also plan to simplify the devices enough to be made and sold by the villagers themselves.