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Mosquitoes lured into this trap are exposed to a chemical or fungi agent. Pixabay

Stinky socks are a hot commodity in Tanzania these days. Researchers there have discovered that the odor attracts malaria-transmitting mosquitoes at a rate four times greater than a human volunteer. The researchers are looking at ways to use the odor to trap and kill mosquitoes outdoors. In the laboratories of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, beauty is in the nose of the beholder.

Researchers there have come up with a combination of acids, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and other components from the human body that simulate a scent repulsive to humans but delicious to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. And that scent is strongest on what we wear on our feet. Dr. Fredros Okumu is the principal investigator of the Ifakara Health Institute’s Outdoor Mosquito Control project.

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‘If you are wearing socks, the things that come off your skin can be trapped onto the sock fabric. Even if you remove the sock, you can still put this sock in a mosquito trap and the mosquitoes will still target it thinking that it is you,’ Okumu said. Dr. Okumu explains that thanks to the widespread use of bednets, insecticides, drugs, and rapid testing kits, malaria transmission has dropped substantially in sub-Saharan Africa, by as much as 50 percent in some countries.

But, he says, a substantial amount of malaria is still being transmitted outside the home, far from bednets or other protections. ‘We went out there and constructed physical devices, and these physical devices, in there we put a synthetic attractant, or we put dirty socks. We showed that we could actually kill 74 to 95 percent of all the wild mosquitoes that visited our devices,’ Okumu said. Mosquitoes lured into this trap are exposed to a chemical or fungi agent. The insects die anywhere from 24 hours to five days later depending on the agent.

A substantial amount of malaria is still being transmitted outside the home, far from bednets or other protections. Pixabay

To test the effectiveness of the stinky sock odor, researchers constructed experimental houses in villages in southeastern Tanzania. Male volunteers slept in some of the houses, while the synthetic stinky-foot odor was placed in other houses. ‘The synthetic attractant that we made on the basis of the sock science actually proved to be four times more attractive to mosquitoes than real humans,’ Okumu said. In some cases, the mosquitoes picked the house they would fly to from up to 110 meters away.

Researchers estimate that at least 20 of the dirty-sock devices are needed to protect every 1,000 people. The devices are estimated to cost up to $27 a year including maintenance. Dr. Okumu says the first clue that smelly socks might be attractive to mosquitoes came from an experiment in the 1990s when a naked male researcher stood in a dark room containing mosquitoes. He mapped out where the insects bit him, which was mostly on the legs.

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The project has been granted almost $800,000 in additional funding for the next two years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a Canadian group called Grand Challenges Canada. Researchers have several goals within the next two years: to improve previous prototypes; to estimate the reduction in malaria transmission through the use of these devices and map out specific locations in villages where mosquitoes are most abundant. Fellow malaria scientists have said there is potential in the research.

Dr. John Vulule is the chief researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute. He says similar studies were conducted in the Netherlands. ‘Clearly, there is something attracting mosquitoes. There is the smell of dirty socks. Do people talk about the cheese-like smell in the toes,’ Vulvule said. Dr. Vulule says that what is unique about this latest research is that it connects attracting mosquitoes with killing them, acting as a form of vector control for the transmission of malaria. (VOA/JC)



Bangladesh over the years show that the state has failed in its duty to protect minorities

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If humanity is hurt, God is hurt.

Religion without compassion might give way to hatred. Compassion with a "self-interest" motive is completely irreligious. But of late, some of the religions have departed from those basic human values. Love and compassion are for only those who follow their "specific" faith. Very sadly, the religions are up as trading commodities in the world of proselytization. Better preachers attract more followers. Of course, no issue if they are not vying for their religious "supremacy". But the ground reality is utterly different. The claim for exclusive supremacy has become the first commandment --- a real bone of contention among the existing religions. In the name of religion, we have polluted our minds. we have corrupted our souls. We have also gone so much astray that God must have now shut his gateway to heaven!

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Taking out time for family has become very difficult as people are pretty busy in daily life and find very little time to spend with their loved ones. Planning a family vacation is an excellent way through which the whole family can step away from their daily life and have fun. You can find many destinations for a family vacation, but there is no place that can beat Aruba.

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Milky Way galaxy as seen from Chitkul Valley

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has for the first time spotted signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy, opening up a new avenue to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.

The possible exoplanet -- or planets outside of our Solar System -- candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile, NASA said in a statement.

Astronomers have, so far, found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way, NASA said.

"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The exoplanet candidate was spotted in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located in M51. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. The X-ray transit they found using Chandra data lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero.

Based on this and other information, the team estimates the exoplanet candidate in M51-ULS-1 would be roughly the size of Saturn and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun.

The team looked for X-ray transits in three galaxies beyond the Milky Way galaxy, using both Chandra and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. Their search covered 55 systems in M51, 64 systems in Messier 101 (the "Pinwheel" galaxy), and 119 systems in Messier 104 (the "Sombrero" galaxy).

However, more data would be needed to verify the interpretation as an extragalactic exoplanet. One challenge is that the planet candidate's large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, thwarting any attempts for a confirming observation for decades, NASA said.

Named in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), Chandrasekhar was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century. (IANS/JB)

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