Scent of a Mosquito

Bzzz bzzz, smack! You—literally—smell good enough to eat!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Those pesky mosquitoes! They do more than just bug us. They spread malaria! Yikes! Even more horrifying? Once you’re infected by a malarial mosquito, you attract more of them!

Never fear, a team of scientists from the UK and Netherlands are here! They decided to sniff out what all this buzz was about. They collected the socks and foot odors of infected and non-infected children in Kenya. Then they exposed the samples to mosquitoes to see which scent mosquitoes preferred. Their findings? Malaria-infected children had MORE mosquitoes flock to their socks.

Why? Turns out, the malaria parasite concocts a secret love potion. People with malaria have a stronger, sweeter smell than those not infected. This special scent emanates from skin, enticing more mosquitoes to dive in.

Understanding how malaria spreads through mosquitoes can help us fight back! We can make better traps or detect which mosquitoes are infected.

So instead of spritzing Love Potion number nine, consider DEET number fifty!