Odours of Plasmodium falciparum-infected participants influence mosquito-host interactions

Jetske G. De Boer*, Ailie Robinson, Stephen J. Powers, Saskia L.G.E. Burgers, John C. Caulfield, Michael A. Birkett, Renate C. Smallegange, Perry J.J. Van Genderen, Teun Bousema, Robert W. Sauerwein, John A. Pickett, Willem Takken, James G. Logan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Malaria parasites are thought to influence mosquito attraction to human hosts, a phenomenon that may enhance parasite transmission. This is likely mediated by alterations in host odour because of its importance in mosquito host-searching behaviour. Here, we report that the human skin odour profile is affected by malaria infection. We compared the chemical composition and attractiveness to Anopheles coluzzii mosquitoes of skin odours from participants that were infected by Controlled Human Malaria Infection with Plasmodium falciparum. Skin odour composition differed between parasitologically negative and positive samples, with positive samples collected on average two days after parasites emerged from the liver into the blood, being associated with low densities of asexual parasites and the absence of gametocytes. We found a significant reduction in mosquito attraction to skin odour during infection for one experiment, but not in a second experiment, possibly due to differences in parasite strain. However, it does raise the possibility that infection can affect mosquito behaviour. Indeed, several volatile compounds were identified that can influence mosquito behaviour, including 2- and 3-methylbutanal, 3-hydroxy-2-butanone, and 6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one. To better understand the impact of our findings on Plasmodium transmission, controlled studies are needed in participants with gametocytes and higher parasite densities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9283
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • 017-4006


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