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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Mosquitoes' sweet tooth targeted
The malaria parasite is spread by mosquitoes
Mosquitoes' thirst for sugar could prove to be the answer for eliminating malaria and other mosquito-transmitted diseases, say scientists.

A Hebrew University team was able to devastate a local mosquito population by spraying acacia trees with a sugar solution spiked with an insecticide.

While female mosquitoes need blood to develop their eggs, they also feed on sweet plant nectar.

The study features in the International Journal for Parasitology.

Malaria kills over a million people a year and is second only to tuberculosis in its impact on world health.

It is spread by female mosquitoes which derive much of their persistent energy from nectar snacks, taken from flowers and nectaries on plant leaves and stems.

Isolated oasis

300 million clinical cases each year
1 million deaths world-wide per year
A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds
Biggest number of deaths occur among young children in Africa

The Israeli team sprayed acacia trees in an oasis in the southern desert region of the country with a sugar solution containing the insecticide Spinosad.

They chose the oasis because there were few other plants in the area from which mosquitoes could obtain their favourite tipple.

It was also home to a distinct and isolated mosquito population, so the effect could be monitored closely with only a minor risk of mosquitoes from neighbouring areas contaminating the results.

After spraying, almost the entire local population of mosquitoes was wiped out. The few mosquitoes that were trapped after spraying were thought to be newly emerging adults.

Lead researcher Professor Yosef Schlein said planting mosquito-attracting trees or bushes in suitable habitats, and spraying them with oral insecticide, could provide a relatively easy and cheap way to tackle the problem of malaria.

He said the technique had particular potential in areas of limited plant growth, such as desert and savannah regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is becoming a bigger threat.

It might also have some use in areas with a greater variety of flowers, as mosquitoes are very fussy, and only visit a limited number of species.

Spinosad is an environmental "reduced-risk" oral insecticide that has little effect on other insects, birds and mammals.

Pierre Guillet, of the World Health Organization's global malaria programme, said any strategy that could effectively kill, or the reduce the life expectancy of adult female mosquitoes, had potential as a way to control the spread of malaria.

However, he said the research would have to be replicated before any firm conclusions could be drawn.

Hopes for cheaper malaria drug
12 Apr 06 |  Health
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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