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Smelly cheese joins the fight against malaria

A cheese which reeks of smelly feet is being bought in bulk by some scientists travelling to Africa because mosquitoes appear to prefer its odour to that of the real thing.

The scientists says that Limburger cheese may help to develop a "mosquito trap" using the cheese- based bait to lure the malaria-carrying insects away from potential human victims.

They have discovered that the African mosquito is particularly attracted to the smell of human feet, and concentrates its biting activity on the victim's exposed ankles and feet.

Dr Bart Knols, a Dutch medical entomologist working in Tanzania, and colleagues found that Limburger cheese, well-known for its smelly-feet odour, was also attractive to anopheles gambiae.

Writing in tomorrow's issue of The Lancet, Dr Knols says that the bacterium which is used in the production of the cheese belongs to the same genus as a micro-organism which lives between the toes on human feet.

Dr Knols says medical entomologists are buying Limburger cheese and taking it to mosquito-infested areas around the globe, while his own team are working on a mosquito trap baited with fatty acids.

"Wouldn't it be something to have a simple mosquito trap in one's bedroom baited with a scent that can best be described as synthetic human?" he writes. "No buzzing, no sleepless nights, and, more importantly a new tool to interrupt the transmission of important vector-borne diseases such as malaria."

Dr Knols poses a further fascinating question. Since humans are the only primates to produce fatty acids on the skin, then the evolutionary relationship between the African mosquito and homo sapiens, suggests that Lucy, the earliest human ancestor, probably suffered from smelly feet.