Researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia found that Anopheles arabiensis, one of the predominant species transmitting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, avoids chickens when looking for hosts to feed on.
Published in the Malaria Journal, the study concluded that, unlike humans, chickens are a non-host species and that the mosquitoes have developed ways of distinguishing them from host species.
The team collected data on the population of human and domestic animals in three Ethiopian villages and found that while mosquitoes strongly prefer human over animal blood when seeking hosts, it randomly feeds on cattle, goats and sheep when outdoors, but avoids chickens in both settings.
The researchers also used these and other compounds obtained from all species to test their ability to repel mosquitoes from mosquito traps.
Author of the study Rickard Ignell said, "We were surprised to find that malaria mosquitoes are repelled by the odours emitted by chickens. This study shows for the first time that, malaria mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species, and that this behaviour is regulated through odour cues."
He added, "People in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered considerably under the burden of malaria over an extended period of time, and mosquitoes are becoming increasingly physiologically resistant to pesticides, while also changing their feeding habits, for example, by moving from indoors to outdoors. For this reason, there is a need to develop novel control methods."