May 16, 2013

Malaria-Infected Mosquitoes More Attracted To Human Odor Than Uninfected Mosquitoes

Malarial parasite may change mosquito olfactory system, enhance attraction to human odor

Mosquitoes infected with the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum are significantly more attracted to human odors than uninfected mosquitoes, according to research published May 15 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by James Logan and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK.

The authors investigated the response of mosquitoes infected with P. falciparum malaria parasites and uninfected to human odor collected on a fabric matrix. Mosquitoes that were infected with the parasites landed and probed significantly more than uninfected mosquitoes in response to the odor. Previous research has already shown that the malarial parasite can alter mosquito behavior in ways that increase the rate of malaria transmission. For example, malaria-infected mosquitoes also consume larger, more frequent blood meals than their uninfected counterparts. For the first time this study reports that, "malaria-infectious females are more attracted to human odors than uninfected mosquitoes".

According to the researchers, studies of mosquito behavior in the context of malaria transmission usually use uninfected mosquito subjects, and their study suggests that such behavioral studies may not always be representative of the behavior of infected mosquitoes. They conclude that understanding the olfactory changes underlying the behavior of these infected mosquitoes may help identify new compounds that could be used to develop mosquito traps for surveillance programs.


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