A study published a few days ago has found that malaria-carrying mosquitoes are more likely to bite humans than mosquitoes which don’t carry the malaria parasite, because they are attracted by our smell.
It is already known that female anopheles mosquitoes are attracted to the chemicals in human body odour, to help them find the blood they need to grow their eggs; but, if they are carrying the malaria parasite, the chance that they will bite humans increases.
James Logan, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and his team of scientists used nylon tights, filled with foot odours, to attract both malarial mosquitoes and ordinary uninfected mosquitoes. They found that the malaria-carrying mosquitoes were three times as likely to try to bite as the uninfected ones. Logan believes that it is the parasite which is changing the way the mosquito behaves, to try to complete its life cycle, which can be deadly for humans.
According to the New Scientist, ‘understanding the mechanisms used by the parasite to change mosquito behaviour could help efforts to predict the spread of the disease. It could also lead to new ways to stop it, such as new types of insect traps.’
James Logan said, ‘We could develop a lure that would target malaria-infected mosquitoes. If that’s possible, we’ll be targeting the most dangerous mosquitoes in the world.’
I think it’s good news that more people are trying to stop malaria spreading, in many different ways. It’s going to take more than one solution to stop this disease.
If you are interested, you can watch an interesting video about it on the BBC News here.