This report is contrary to existing information from experts who advise animal lovers to keep pets out of their bedrooms to establish boundaries, avoid illness and get a good night’s sleep.
According to researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, the predominant species of mosquito that transmits malaria in sub-Saharan Africa avoids chickens when searching for hosts to feed on.
This is because, chickens, unlike humans, cattle, goats and sheep, are a non-host species for the mosquito, An. arabiensis, according to the scientists research.
This is the first time scientists have shown that malaria-transmitting mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species using their sense of smell, the research, published in Malaria Journal, claims.
Because it feeds both indoors and outdoors on a range of host species, it is difficult to control An. arabiensis using existing methods, according to previous research.
A team of scientists in Ethiopia found that while An. arabiensis strongly prefers human over animal blood when seeking hosts indoors, it randomly feeds on cattle, goats and sheep when outdoors – but it avoids chickens in both settings, despite a relatively large chicken population.
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Used in combination with other methods of combatting malaria, the odours emitted by chickens and other non-host species could prove useful in controlling the mosquito, the findings suggest.
Rickard Ignell, the study’s author, said: “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…by moving from indoors to outdoors. For this reason there is a need to develop novel control methods.”
Dr Ignell added: “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.”