According to a newly-released study, published in the PNAS journal, children suffering from Malaria emit a scent that attracts more mosquitoes thus exposing them to risk of multiple infection with the bacteria that causes the killer disease.
This study could shed light on new methods of controlling spread of the ailment.
It was conducted by researchers from Netherlands’ Wageningen University and Research in collaboration with four institutions including the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe), Kenya.
Researchers found that the amount of certain chemical compounds, known as aldehydes, in children infected with malaria were much higher than in those free of the disease.
Aldehydes are described as having a fruity or grassy scent and are very attractive to malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
“Our study advances earlier research that showed that children carrying the malaria parasite, Plasmodium, are more attractive to malaria mosquitoes than their healthy counterparts. We aimed to identify the mechanisms of this increased attraction,” said Icipe scientist Dr Dan Masiga Tuesday.
The research has unearthed new ways of combating malaria by shedding light on opportunities to intervene in the disease transmission chain. It suggested that, for instance, the findings can be used to improve odour-baited mosquito traps or can provide means for developing more child-friendly diagnostic tools that will not require blood samples.
“We found that children with malaria are about two times more attractive to malaria mosquitoes than their malaria-free counterparts,” said Annette Busula, a former Icipe PhD scholar who was involved in the study.
Busula added that “We also investigated further to determine whether body odour is responsible for the increased attraction. We concluded that Plasmodium parasites manipulate body odours of malaria-infected humans, increasing their attractiveness to malaria vectors.”