CHILDREN WITH MALARIA SMELL SWEETER TO MOSQUITOES
Children infected with malaria produce a scent which attracts mosquitoes and could be a new target for efforts to control the spread of the parasite which kills half a million people a year, a study has found. UK researchers attached electrodes to the mosquitoes’ antennae — the equivalent of their nose — to measure their interest in a range of foot odour samples from children. They found the samples that piqued the most mosquito interest, and were therefore most likely to draw a bite, were from the children with malaria.
To understand this difference the team analysed the chemical make-up of all 117 odour samples and found the malaria group were particularly high in a group of chemicals compounds called aldehydes. Significantly, the children who had the highest levels of the malaria-causing plasmodium parasite had particularly high levels of the key aldehyde compounds in their sweat.
“This is the first time that the skin odour of people naturally infected with malaria has been studied,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Ailie Robinson, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).