Malaria-infected mosquitoes have a thing for human sweat, as the parasite takes control of its host and searches for a new source of blood.
A new study shows that sweat is really attractive to the mosquitoes being controlled by the parasite that causes malaria.
Malaria causes over 770,000 deaths each year, out of more than 200 million cases.
The study published in PLOS One had a volunteer wear a nylon sock for 20 hours. The sock was then put in a container filled with both possessed and free mosquitoes. Clean socks were put in as well.
Researchers found that the malaria infested mosquitoes landed on the sock three times the amount of times as the normal mosquitoes. The females housing malaria were the most receptive to the smells.
But what makes the mosquitoes want our scent more?
It is known that the Anopheles gambiae species of mosquito has special odor detectors that are programmed to sense certain human smells. The researchers conducting this study hypothesize that the malaria parasite might enhance the odor detection and heighten their desire for it.
"We think it is giving them a heightened sense of smell. We are hypothesizing there is an alteration somewhere in their olfactory system that allows them to find us quicker," senior lecturer in medical entomology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Dr. James Logan said.
What is still unclear is how malaria actually controls the mosquitos and influences their sense of smell. Researchers also do not know what exactly about human sweat attracts them.
But the study still helps scientists better understand how malaria is transmitted from organism to organism.
“The results of our study provide vital information that could be used to provide better predictions of how malaria is transmitted from human being to human being by An. gambiae s.s. females,” the authors of the study said.