A Cow Cologne That Can Prevent Malaria

2 minute read

As the days lengthen and temperatures rise and spring gives way to summer, the harbingers of hazy, popsicle-melt days and warm, lazy nights have reappeared—the smells of freshly cut grass, asphalt after rain; and, less pleasantly, flies and spiders and roaches and fire ants and mosquitos.

Of all the unpleasant things about summer—sweating through your clothes, the smell of things baking in the heat that shouldn’t be, swimming pools filled with screaming children—mosquitos are probably the worst. They’re the world’s most dangerous animals, carrying some of the most deadly diseases known to man: Malaria, yellow fever, dengue, West Nile and encephalitis, among others.

And on top of that, those bites really itch!

Luckily, a few good scientists are using a novel approach to tackle the problem — by using cows. Researchers at a California tech company are experimenting with spraying human-scented cologne on cattle, thereby ensuring that it’s heifers bitten and not humans. There doesn’t seem to be a downside: Cows can’t contract human malaria from mosquito bites, and the spray (a “shampoo-y goo,” according to Smithsonian) lasts for several weeks. Moreover, the human-smelling cows can also be treated with insecticide, so that any mosquito that tries to Dracula winds up dead.

It’s a potentially brilliant solution—part of a more comprehensive malaria prevention strategy, at least—that could ensure the protection of the 3.4 billion people around the world at risk for malaria. And hey, Bill Gates believes in it too: His foundation awarded the researchers $100,000 to continue developing the technology. Here’s to mosquito-free summers!

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Write to Bijan Stephen at bijan.stephen@gmail.com