The smell from a live chicken could help protect against malaria, researchers have found.

Ethiopian and Swedish scientists discovered that malarial mosquitoes tend to avoid chickens and other birds.

The experiments, conducted in western Ethiopia, included suspending a live chicken in a cage near a volunteer sleeping under a bed net.

The malaria parasite, which initially hides in the liver before going into the bloodstream, is carried from person to person by mosquitoes when they drink blood.

The scientists, whose research was published in the Malaria Journal, concluded that as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to locate an animal they can bite there must be something in a chicken's odour that puts the insects off.

Addis Ababa University's Habte Tekie, who worked on the research, said that the compounds from the smell of the chicken can be extracted and could work as a repellent.

Field trials for this stage of the research are now "in the pipeline", he told the BBC.

Last year malaria killed nearly 400,000 people in Africa, the UN says.

Infection and death rates are declining but health officials are continuing to look for new ways to prevent the spread of the disease.

BBC