The Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto mosquito that spreads malaria is particularly attracted to people with body odor and whose skin is heavily covered with certain kinds of bacteria, according to scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
The study has important implications for malaria transmission and prevention.
Scientists studied sweat samples from the sole of 48 men aged 20-64. They discovered that mosquitoes were most attracted to humans who had a high abundance but low species diversity of bacteria on the skin. Researchers believe that humans with a more diverse array of microbes on their skin are more likely to possess certain species that emit compounds, which in turn neutralize human body odor that mosquitoes find attractive. So mosquitoes are less likely to come into contact with these humans, and thus they are less likely to contract malaria.
The levels of Staphylococcus bacteria were 2.62 times higher in samples that were 'highly attractive' than the 'poorly attractive' individuals. Variovorax and Pseudomonas repelled the mosquitoes.
This finding may lead to the development of personalized methods for malaria prevention in future.
The research is published in scientific journal PLoS One.