Certain Viruses Make Humans Smell Extra Appetizing To Hungry Mosquitoes

Certain Viruses Make Humans Smell Extra Appetizing To Hungry Mosquitoes

New research indicates that the Zika and dengue viruses control their hosts’ bodily odours to their advantage. Both viruses modify the odor of mice in order to attract mosquitoes eager for blood. Microbiologist Gong Cheng of Tsinghua University in Beijing thinks this strategy might help viruses spread to new hosts. To combat mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and dengue, he recommends a variety of techniques for disrupting this stench. Cell reported the findings on June 30th.

Infections that change your smell

James Logan, a disease-control expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, says scientists have known for a long time that certain infections may modify how their hosts smell. Viruses and bacteria have developed to take advantage of this. Aphids, for example, are attracted to the Cucumber mosaic virus-infected plants because they emit a chemical that attracts them. Malaria-causing parasites have also been reported to attract mosquitoes by altering their hosts’ body odor.

Cheng and his colleagues injected mice with either Zika or dengue virus to test whether mosquitoes were drawn to the disease. A mosquito-infested room was linked to both cages, and sick and healthy mice were housed in different small enclosures with their scents wafting into the chamber. According to the results, around 65–70 percent of mosquitoes migrated into the diseased mouse cage.

Infected mice were found to emit a stinky substance known as acetophenone in the air of their enclosures, according to a chemical examination of the air. Mice afflicted with Zika or dengue generated acetophenone 10 times more than healthy mice, according to the researchers. The fragrance of acetophenone attracted mosquitoes to healthy mice and a few willing human participants. An antibacterial protein released by skin cells keeps bacteria that make acetophenone in check on the skin’s surface. This protein was shown to be less active in mice with dengue or Zika, according to the team’s research.

Acetophenone-producing bacteria overwhelm the skin of the sick mice, rendering them smelly and drawing mosquitoes. Humans create more acetophenone when they’re contaminated with the dengue disease compared when they are not at all, according to scientists. In addition, sweaty swabs from dengue-infected persons lure mosquitoes faster than those from healthy individuals.

Anna Daniels

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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