Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Body odor reveals malarial infection

Date:
June 30, 2014
Source:
ETH Zürich
Summary:
An infection with malaria pathogens changes the scent of infected mice, making those infected more attractive to mosquitoes, according to a new study. Researchers show that whether mosquitoes find the right victim to bite is not left to chance by the pathogen. Instead, the plasmodium parasite appears to manipulate its host by changing the characteristics of the infected individual's body odour, which makes the carrier more attractive to hungry mosquitoes.

If the malaria pathogen is present in its transmissible form, an infected mouse’s scent is particularly attractive to mosquitos.
Credit: CDC/James Gathany

An infection with malaria pathogens changes the scent of infected mice, making those infected more attractive to mosquitoes. These are the findings of a team of researchers from ETH Zurich and Pennsylvania State University in a new study.

Malaria is and remains a formidable disease that is transmitted to humans by the anopheles mosquito. The pathogen is a protozoan of the genus Plasmodium. If left untreated, malaria can be deadly. However, the plasmodium parasite has a problem: to complete its lifecycle, it must eventually be acquired by another mosquito, which occurs when the insect bites an infected person.

Pathogen elicits the strongest odour during reproduction phase

In a new study just published in PNAS, researchers show that whether mosquitoes find the right victim to bite is not left to chance by the pathogen. Instead, the plasmodium parasite appears to manipulate its host by changing the characteristics of the infected individual's body odour, which makes the carrier more attractive to hungry mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes were most attracted to infected mice with a high concentration of gametocytes, the plasmodium parasite's reproductive cells, in their blood. When the mosquito consumes these cells along with the blood, a new development cycle starts in the mosquito's gut.

No unique cocktail of scent components

However, the pathogens do not appear to trigger the expression of unique scent components. The researchers were unable to find any components that existed only in infected persons. Instead the malaria pathogens alter the levels of compounds already present in the scent of uninfected individuals. "There appears to be an overall elevation of several compounds that are attractive to mosquitoes," says Consuelo De Moraes, Professor of Biocommunication and Entomology at ETH Zurich.

The researchers believe it is logical that infected people smell more attractive but do not form highly specific body odours, especially given that the malaria pathogen can also have adverse effects on mosquitoes. "Since mosquitoes probably don't benefit from feeding on infected people, it may make sense for the pathogen to exaggerate existing odour cues that the insects are already using for host location," says study leader Mark Mescher.

What the researchers found most surprising is the fact that the malaria infection leaves its mark on body odour for life. Even when infected mice no longer had symptoms, their body odour showed that they were carriers of the pathogen. However, not all stages of the disease smelled the same: the scent profile of the acutely ill differs from the profile found in individuals exhibiting later stages of malaria infection.

Scent tests on humans

Although the findings obtained from mice in this study cannot be directly transferred to human malaria, they suggest that similar effects might be involved in the attraction of mosquitoes to infected people. Mescher and De Moraes are currently investigating this possibility through additional research involving human subjects in Africa.

In addition to aiding efforts to disrupt malaria transmission by mosquitoes, the researchers hope that findings from this work may also be used to develop new non-invasive diagnostic procedures that would facilitate effective screening of human populations for malaria infections, particularly in order to identify individuals who don't otherwise symptoms but remain capable of spreading the disease.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ETH Zürich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Consuelo M. De Moraes, Nina M. Stanczyk, Heike S. Betz, Hannier Pulido, Derek G. Sim, Andrew F. Read, and Mark C. Mescher. Malaria-induced changes in host odors enhance mosquito attraction. PNAS, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1405617111

Cite This Page:

ETH Zürich. "Body odor reveals malarial infection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164059.htm>.
ETH Zürich. (2014, June 30). Body odor reveals malarial infection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164059.htm
ETH Zürich. "Body odor reveals malarial infection." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164059.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 23, 2014) — The WHO has warned up to 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola over the next few weeks. As Sonia Legg reports, the implications for the West African countries suffering from the disease are huge. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) — A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) — More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins