Eau de Plasmodium

Infection with malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites can give humans a certain smell that attracts mosquitoes, found new research shedding light on malaria’s efficient spread.

Scientists studying the socks of 45 Kenyan school children found mosquitoes were drawn to those infected with malaria. Foot odor samples were used to isolate chemicals that enticed mosquitoes; those chemicals were also found at higher levels in infected children. Most of them were aldehydes, a common perfume additive.

Like many humans, mosquitoes exposed to scent tests were finicky about overkill: “Like Chanel,” says Audrey Odom John of Washington University School of Medicine: “Sometimes a little is nice but a lot is not.”

Science

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