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23 May 2013 09:26
Infected mosquitoes are more attracted to human smells than uninfected ones
Mosquitoes infected with malaria are more attracted to human odours than uninfected ones, according to a study. Scientists claim the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, alters the host mosquito's olfactory system, leading to a heightened attraction to human odours.
This heightened attraction causes mosquitoes to fly more frequently to humans to feed on their blood, thereby increasing transmission of the pathogen responsible for the tropical disease.
Only females of the genus Anopheles transmit human malaria, as they suck blood to nurture their eggs. The team of researchers, led by Renate C Smallegange, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, are the first to demonstrate the malaria parasite has power over mosquito behaviour.
Around 3.3 billion people around the world live in high-risk malaria areas, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. Travellers to such regions should make sure they receive the necessary jabs before jetting off, while purchasing
medical travel insurance is also advised for added peace of mind.
The finding were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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