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The Smellier the Better for Malaria-Infected Mosquitoes

May 17, 2013 02:35 AM EDT
Infected female malaria mosquitoes more attracted to human odor

(Photo : Creative Commons via Flickr/ Hugo Quintero)

The smellier you are, the more attractive you are to malaria-carrying mosquitoes, a new study said Thursday.

Malaria parasite makes the smell of human beings even more irresistible to mosquitoes that feed on our blood, according to a paper published in the Public Library of Science's PLOS One journal.

Entomologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gave malaria-transmitting mosquitoes two places to land: a clean, nylon stocking or one worn for 20 hours by a woman who also happened to be the author of the study.

The study found that all the mosquitoes preferred the dirty sock over the fresh smelling one. This "suggests that malaria-infectious females are more attracted to human odors than uninfected mosquitoes," write the authors of the report that was published in PLOS ONE. The rate of landing and biting attempts for infected mosquitoes was around three times greater than uninfected mosquitoes.

The researchers were unable to determine how the parasite manipulates mosquitoes' sense of smell, or which part of human odor is most alluring to the mosquitoes. However, the scientists are optimistic that once that mystery is solved, that could pave the way to develop traps to catch and trap malaria-infected mosquitoes before they have the chance to pass on the parasite to the people they bite.

"The results of our study provide vital information that could be used to provide better predictions of how malaria is transmitted from human being to human being by An. gambiae s.s. females," the authors conclude.

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