SolarMal: How To Fight Malaria Mozzies with the Power Of the Sun

In Africa, a child dies from malaria every minute while in the Americas, the alarming spread of the Zika virus is endangering the health of millions of people. Now scientists have developed a mosquito trap that could help reduce the number of infections.

Author Hanadi Siering:

Translation Marisa Pettit, 08.24.16

Climate change has led to rising tempreatures in Kenya in recent years, creating the warm, humid conditions in which mosquitoes thrive. It’s estimated that throughout the country each year up to 35,000 people die from malaria that they’ve contracted from mosquito bites. And it’s the world’s poorest people who are most affected by the tropical disease. But now a group of Dutch and Kenyan researchers working on a project entitled SolarMal have developed a successful series of SMoTS: solar-powered odour-baited mosquito trapping systems, in other words.

In a joint study, researchers from the Dutch Univeristy of Wageningen, the Kenyan International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute present a trap they have developed which mimics the scent of human beings and thus attracts the dangerous, disease-carrying insects. The mosquitoes are then sucked into the trap via a ventilator powered by solar energy that creates a flow of air. Once the mosquito is inside the trap, there’s no way out. The whole thing works without using any of the insecticides which mosquitoes are growing increasingly resistent to.

A 30 Percent Decrease in Malaria Infections

The traps were tested on the island of Rusinga on Lake Victoria. A total of 4,500 traps were placed throughout the island, installed on the roofs of houses and huts. The result: 70 per cent of the mosquito population has disappeared, and the rate of malaria infections has decreased by 30 per cent.

And for the inhabitants of Rusinga the traps have another advantage too: the miniature solar stations store electricity in their batteries, meaning they can be used to power lights, chargers or even televisions.

There are currently several international initiatives underway that aim to eradicate malaria completely by the year 2050. And SolarMal definitely looks like a project that could help achieve that goal on a local level. Only by implementing a combination of different methods and anti-mosquito innovations that have been designed to suit the local climate and socio-economic situation, do we have a chance of one day maybe wiping out the disease for good.

Translated, in part, from this article by Hanadi Siering that first appeared on our German-language platform. 

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