Malaria Parasites Might Make Their Infected Hosts Smell Tastier for Mosquitoes

So far, the finding has only been shown in mice

Photo: Dr Tony Brain, Kevin 0'Neill/ /Science Photo Library/Corbis

It looks like malaria might belong to the group of parasites that manipulate their hosts' behavior and physiology to their own benefit. According to new research, the malaria parasite might change a host's smell to make it more attractive to mosquitoes, the BBC reports.

So far, this finding has only been confirmed in mice. Over a 45 day period, researchers studied the odors of mice that were both infected with malaria and free from the disease. The parasite seemed to amp up certain odors that mice produce naturally, the BBC describes, especially during the time that mice were infectious but not showing any symptoms of malaria. At that point, malaria parasites are primed to enter into mosquito in order to complete their life cycle and breed, and researchers found that mosquitoes were in turn more attracted to those mice at that time, the BBC reports.

Chemistry World adds that previous studies have suggested that people who are infected with malaria attract more mosquitoes, although the biological mechanism behind that observation has yet to be demonstrated. At this point, scientists can't say for sure that the mice finding translates to humans, but they plan to find out with further studies. 

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