Smelly socks are the key to fighting malaria, scientists have found.

The pongy garments apparently attract four times as many of the deadly malaria mosquitoes as the scent of a human body. And now white coats have determined that by spraying a similar reek into special traps outside homes, they stopped the bugs going inside and biting people.

It is hoped the stink weapons will tackle the spread of malaria, which kills 800,000 people – mostly children – a year.

Dr Fredros Okumu, who is developing the traps, said: “The disease has claimed so many lives, including those of people close to me, and my hope is this will be part of the solution.”

Bed nets and indoor spraying have already cut malaria cases. But scientists have not been able to combat mozzies outdoors.

Experts at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania found smelly socks were the most effective bait. Once inside the trap, the mosquitoes are poisoned. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given a two-year grant to the researchers.