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Malaria Odor

May 23, 2018

Distinctive odor compounds may help doctors find out who is infected with malaria.



Sniffing out malaria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The plasmodium parasite that causes malaria may actually make people smell more attractive to the mosquitoes that spread the parasite. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ETH Zurich researchers Mark Mescher, Conseulo De Moraes and their colleagues report analyzing odor samples from four-hundred children in Kenya.


Because we know there’s a signal there that has information that changes the behavior of the mosquito, then presumably that information is also available for us to detect.


They found that odor profiles revealed who carried the malaria parasite, even if they had no symptoms. That’s especially important, since asymptomatic carriers contribute the most to the spread of the disease. Now the goal will be to develop portable test kits that could detect these malaria-related compounds and be deployed in the field. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon