The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum produces chemical compounds called terpenes that give off odors that attract mosquitoes, according to new research. The study, published this week in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, might explain why the insects are more likely to bite humans or animals infected with the organism. “We hope these kinds of parasite-produced compounds are the sort of thing that you might be able to find in the breath or sweat of children with malaria," Odom said. "We have studies ongoing to see if we can detect these compounds in children with malaria, because obviously a breathalyzer test would be a lot nicer than the blood-based tests that are currently used. It also holds implications for malaria control, she said: "Understanding the molecular basis of mosquito attraction and host choice is important for figuring out how you might prevent people from getting bitten in the first place." "Together, our studies provide evidence that malaria parasites produce specific compounds that attract mosquitoes, and that the mosquitoes that transmit malaria contain the cellular machinery necessary for detecting and responding to these compounds," Odom said.