Variation in host preferences of malaria mosquitoes is mediated by skin bacterial volatiles

A.O. Busula, W. Takken, J.G. De Boer, W.R. Mukabana, N.O. Verhulst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The host preferences of the anthropophilic mosquito species in the Anopheles gambiae complex (Diptera: Culicidae) are mediated by skin bacterial volatiles. However, it is not known whether these mosquitoes respond differentially to skin bacterial volatiles from non-human host species. In this study, the responses of two malaria mosquito species in the An. gambiae complex, Anopheles gambiae s.s. (hereafter, An.gambiae) and Anopheles arabiensis, with different host preferences, to volatiles released from skin bacteria were tested. Skin bacteria collected from human, cow and chicken skin significantly increased trap catches; traps containing bacteria collected from human skin caught the highest proportions of An.gambiae and An.arabiensis. Traps with bacteria of human origin caught a significantly higher proportion of An.gambiae than of An.arabiensis, whereas bacterial volatiles from the chicken attracted significantly higher numbers of An.arabiensis than of An.gambiae. Additionally, An.gambiae showed a specialized response to volatiles from four specific bacteria, whereas An.arabiensis responded equally to all species of bacteria tested. Skin bacterial volatiles may therefore play important roles in guiding mosquitoes with different host preferences. The identification of these bacterial volatiles can contribute to the development of an odour blend that attracts mosquitoes with different host preferences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-326
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Anopheles arabiensis
  • Anopheles gambiae
  • Anthropophilic
  • Attraction
  • Bacteria
  • Host finding
  • Microbiota
  • Odours
  • Opportunistic
  • Vectors
  • 017-4008


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