03/27/2015

Malaria Parasite Lures Mosquitoes With Bait-and-Switch

8:12 minutes

The malaria parasite relies on mosquitoes to travel from host to host. So how to summon a ride? It turns out the parasite actually contains chloroplast-like organelles, which don’t respond to light, but do manufacture some of the aromatic lemon-and-pine-scented compounds found in plants. Those compounds lure mosquitoes in, potentially aiding the parasite’s spread to new hosts. A study on the subject appears in the journal mBio. Study author Audrey Odom of Washington University says that if the parasite’s scent shows up in the breath of patients, a quick breathalyzer test could someday replace the blood tests currently used to detect malaria.

Segment Guests

Audrey Odom

Audrey Odom is assistant professor of pediatrics and molecular microbiology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Meet the Producer

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata is Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.