Don’t forget to pack the chicken

6526262245_e3b49c9909_zOff on vacation? Here’s something topical I plucked from my science feeds for you.

Apparently, adding a chicken to the packing list might be a wise idea this summer, especially if you’re traveling in malaria-prone areas. Researchers with the University of Addis Ababa and the Swedish University of Agriculture have found that chicken body odours repel malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

Not only did the research team determine that chickens actively discourage Anopheles arabiensis, the dominant malaria vector in the area of Ethiopia where field testing was carried out, but they also identified the “chicken-specific compounds” responsible.

First, the scientists took a look at what the mosquitoes preferred to dine on at indoor and outdoor buffets. Community living in the three Ethiopian villages surveyed includes close proximity between humans and agricultural animals, both outdoors and indoors. Surprisingly, the results showed that for the indoor buffet, mosquitoes show a preference for human blood even when cattle, goats and sheep are available. However, when outdoors, An. arabiensis prefers cow. Chickens feature rarely on either menu even though they are extremely abundant.

So, what is so

Tea to fight malaria? Yes, but also no.

Brendan Borell has written a scathing attack on the WHO, published in Slate last week. Because of the basics of the story, I thought I knew what I was in for: someone is advocating the use of a cheap “natural” remedy instead of a well-understood synthetic drug. They’re anecdotally reporting extreme efficacy and no drawbacks. Meanwhile, medical authorities are tearing out their hair and imploring people to stick to the stuff that works.

That’s how stories about herbal medicine typically go in my world. But this isn’t quite one of them.

“Although the tea itself has traditionally been used in treatment, not prevention, in China, a randomized controlled trial on this farm showed that workers who drank it regularly reduced their risk of suffering from multiple episodes of malaria by one-third.”

Randomized controlled trial you say?

“Soon afterward, a researcher named Patrick Ogwang with the Ugandan Ministry of Health documented a decline of malaria incidence among almost 300 workers drinking the tea, and followed up with the randomized controlled trial demonstrating