Differential attraction of malaria mosquitoes to volatile blends produced by human skin bacteria

N.O. Verhulst, R. Andriessen, U. Groenhagen, G. Bukovinszkine-Kiss, S. Schulz, W. Takken, J.J.A. van Loon, G. Schraa, R.C. Smallegange

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The malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto is mainly guided by human odour components to find its blood host. Skin bacteria play an important role in the production of human body odour and when grown in vitro, skin bacteria produce volatiles that are attractive to A. gambiae. The role of single skin bacterial species in the production of volatiles that mediate the host-seeking behaviour of mosquitoes has remained largely unknown and is the subject of the present study. Headspace samples were taken to identify volatiles that mediate this behaviour. These volatiles could be used as mosquito attractants or repellents. Five commonly occurring species of skin bacteria were tested in an olfactometer for the production of volatiles that attract A. gambiae. Odour blends produced by some bacterial species were more attractive than blends produced by other species. In contrast to odours from the other bacterial species tested, odours produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa were not attractive to A. gambiae. Headspace analysis of bacterial volatiles in combination with behavioural assays led to the identification of six compounds that elicited a behavioural effect in A. gambiae. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence for a role of selected bacterial species, common on the human skin, in determining the attractiveness of humans to malaria mosquitoes. This information will be used in the further development of a blend of semiochemicals for the manipulation of mosquito behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15829
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • gambiae-sensu-stricto
  • human axillary odor
  • l-lactic acid
  • anopheles-gambiae
  • aedes-aegypti
  • pseudomonas-aeruginosa
  • diptera-culicidae
  • electrophysiological responses
  • pyruvate fermentation
  • oviposition responses


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