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Malaria-infected mosquitoes are more attracted to human scent

Humans have a very sweet, attractive smell for mosquitoes infected with the Malaria virus.
Humans have a very sweet, attractive smell for mosquitoes infected with the Malaria virus.
iStock photo

According to BBC News on Thursday, a new study suggests that mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite are more attracted to human body odor than uninfected insects.

Entomologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gave malaria-transmitting mosquitoes two places to land: a clean, nylon sock and one worn for 20 hours on the foot of young Dutch man.

All the mosquitoes gravitated more toward the dirty sock than the fresh one. But the bugs infected with malaria landed on the smelly nylon more frequently. And while they were there, the parasite-possessed bugs were more likely to try and bite the sock than the malaria-free insects.

Scientists have known for a decades that the malaria vector Anopheles gambaie is highly attracted to people. In fact, these ladies – it's only the females that bite us — actually prefer to feast on humans than many other animals.

By making humans an easier target, the parasite is more likely to be passed into the blood stream - ensuring its survival and continuing the spread of the deadly disease.

The scientists infected the mosquitoes with the malaria parasite in their laboratory
The researchers will now begin a three-year project, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), to learn more about how the parasites are doing this.

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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.

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