Today’s Solutions: October 19, 2021

While some scientists are working to develop malaria vaccines with higher efficacy, others are keeping busy with more low-tech solutions to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. 

One of the latest of such solutions comes from scientists at Durham University who discovered that building homes on stilts can significantly reduce the risk of getting bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitos.

About 80 percent of malaria-causing mosquito bites in Africa occur indoors at night, so preventing these insects from making their way inside homes is a simple way to protect people from contracting the disease. Since most mosquitos fly low to the ground, the researchers wondered, if by raising a house, the mosquitos would have a hard time finding its occupants.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers built four experimental huts in The Gambia. One of them remained on the ground, while the other three were raised with the help of stilts, at heights of 1, 2, and 3 meters, respectively, above the ground.

The team of researchers changed the height of each house weekly and, after analyzing the results, they found that increasing the height of a hut progressively reduced the number of malaria-carrying mosquitoes entering the hut. In fact, they found that the houses sitting at 3 meters above the ground had 84 percent fewer mosquitos than huts sitting at ground level.

According to the researchers, there may be two reasons for why that was the case: “First, malaria mosquitoes have evolved to find humans on the ground. Second, at higher heights, the carbon dioxide odour plumes coming out of the huts are rapidly dispersed by the wind, so mosquitoes find it more difficult to find a person to bite.”

While the authors of the study say that, over time, mosquitoes may adapt to feed at higher levels, they nonetheless suggest that elevating houses in high-risk areas is definitely worth a try.

Original study: Journal of the Royal Society Interface — The relationship between house height and mosquito house entry

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