Blocking CO2 to overcome malaria

14 Sep

Mosquitoes are so difficult to elude because they pursue us via the CO2 exhaled in our breath. That’s annoying when we’re relaxing outside on a summer evening, but it’s devastating for the 200 to 300 million individuals who contract malaria annually. Greater than 1 million people—the majority of them babies in sub-Saharan Africa—die once a year from this mosquito-borne disease. After his wife came down with dengue fever, another mosquito-borne malady, University of California, Riverside entomologist Anandasankar Ray started in search of how to stop mosquitoes of their tracks—and found it, way to ripening fruit and fruit flies.

Ray discovered that ripe fruit gives off odors that may block a fly’s CO2 receptors, which the insects use to find food and warn one another of predators. He synthesized the chemicals, adapted them to dam mosquitoes’ CO2 receptors and formulated it into an environmentally friendly spray. Ray is now looking to commercialize the technology through his company, OlFactor Laboratories. “The fruit fly serves as a model to grasp very complicated questions that would never was asked in other insects,” says Ray, who had malaria as a child growing up in India.

Ray’s spray is potentially important because current methods of mosquito protection, including insecticides and nets, are costly and largely ineffective. Mosquitoes develop resistance to insecticides, which pollute the environment, and net distribution isn’t extensive enough to succeed in the general public. OlFactor Laboratories products may be “cost-effective in distressed economies and remote locations,” says the firm’s president, Steve Abbott. “We are developing programs if you want to fund deployment in places hardest hit by mosquito-borne diseases and least in a position to afford a campaign to offer protection to humans and animals.”

Issue: September 2011

Related Reading

Ruim 100.000 Nederlanders doen mee aan terugdringen van CO2-uitstoot met 10%
Elk jaar verspillen we 30% energie: zonde van het geld
Malaria Consortium saves lives one net at a time
Malaria gehackt

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Magazine


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