Around 600,000 people die from malaria every year. The vast majority of these deaths occur in Africa, where female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting malaria between people. Current mosquito control methods, which include insecticide-covered bed nets and indoor insecticide spraying, have dramatically reduced malaria transmission in many communities. But they have little impact on mosquitoes that bite outdoors.

In a world-first study, a team of international scientists has discovered a chemical called cedrol that attracts pregnant female Anopheles mosquitoes. The work, published in the Malaria Journal by the OviART research group, opens up new possibilities for controlling and monitoring mosquito populations where they breed.

Study author Mike Okal is a PhD student at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, currently based at icipe, an insect research centre in Kenya. Here, he talks about the study and the impact it could have on reducing malaria transmission in Africa. “This is a real discovery,” says Steve Lindsay, another study author. “For the first time, we’ve been able to identify a molecule that attracts mosquitoes wanting to lay eggs. It could allow us to produce more-efficient traps to attract and kill infective mosquitoes at their breeding sites.”

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