Breweries should become malaria partners

PLoS One has just published a study from Burkina Faso entitled, “Beer Consumption Increases Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes.” Beer and water consumers were compared and “Water consumption had no effect on human attractiveness to An. gambiae mosquitoes, but beer consumption increased volunteer attractiveness.”

african-beers-sm.jpgSpecifically, “Body odours of volunteers who consumed beer increased mosquito activation (proportion of mosquitoes engaging in take-off and up-wind flight) and orientation (proportion of mosquitoes flying towards volunteers’ odours).”  The authors therefore concluded that, “beer consumption is a risk factor for malaria and needs to be integrated into public health policies for the design of control measures.”

This is not the first study to look at what attracts mosquitoes to human beings. For example in 2003 Mukabana and colleagues found that “… mosquitoes preferred certain individuals despite being presented with emanations of three persons simultaneously.”

A year later BBC reported on another study the found that, “A key chemical found in
sweat is what draws the mosquito that spreads malaria in Africa to bite its human victims.” The researchers from Yale and Vanderbilt indicated that, “The chemical, or odorant, in sweat responsible for this attraction is called 4-methylphenol.”

Researchers from the University of Florida also explained that, “… the process of attraction begins long before the landing. Mosquitoes can smell their dinner from an impressive distance of up to 50 meters … This doesn’t bode well for people who emit large quantities of carbon dioxide.”

So back to beer drinking – the smells and chemical attractants emitted by the beer drinkers put them at risk. What can be done?  During these days of counting malaria out we need all the partners we can get.  We ask whether breweries are contributing their fair share to protecting their customers and the customers’ families from mosquitoes? Shouldn’t breweries contribute a certain portion of the price of each bottle to the national malaria control program or an appropriate NGO?

Breweries are known for having contests and give aways at local pubs in order to increase sales – instead of giving away caps and t-shirts with the beer logos, maybe they should now give out insecticide treated bednets with their logos.  The role for corporate responsibility by the breweries could not be more clear.

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