More Malaria: This is Even Scarier

I recently blogged about how malaria may be evolving to become drug resistant.

Here’s an even scarier discovery: Malaria actually alters your body chemistry, making you more attractive to mosquitoes that will further spread the disease.

Malaria is caused by the plasmodium virus.  Researchers in Sweden have identified a specific substance – HMBPP – that the virus produces in your bloodstream when you become infected.  They found that mosquitoes greatly prefer HMBPP-infected blood to non-infected blood.

But how do mosquitoes know whether your blood is infected?  Well, the researchers also discovered that HMBPP changes your skin odor to make you more attractive to mosquitoes.  Specifically, HMBPP makes you emanate more carbon dioxide through your skin, which is known to attract mosquitoes.

In other words, a parasite is able to manipulate its host to help it proliferate and spread.  Unfortunately, that host is you.  It’s like something out of a bad science fiction movie.

The scientists used an Agilent GC, mass spectrometer, NIST library and Bioanalyzer system in their research.


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