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Malaria molecule makes blood extra-alluring to mosquitoes

Mix releases gases, chemicals that prompt insects to gorge on infectious meal

2:00pm, February 9, 2017
mosquito and malaria parasite

BLOODTHIRST  The Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite (right) produces a molecule that makes infected blood more attractive to Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes (left).

Malaria parasites seduce mosquitoes on the sly.

Plasmodium falciparum parasites produce a molecule that makes parasite-infected blood more attractive to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, researchers report online February 9 in Science. The insects slurp up this enticing meal, helping the parasite spread to new hosts.

“It’s a really intriguing glimpse into how Plasmodium might have evolved to enhance its probability of transmission,” says Conor McMeniman, a mosquito researcher at Johns Hopkins University who wasn’t part of the study.

Previous research has suggested that mosquitoes might be preferentially drawn to malaria-infected people, but it was unclear what piqued their interest. Biologist Noushin Emami of Stockholm University and colleagues got an unexpected lead when studying the effect of a molecule called HMBPP on the immune system

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