Composition of human skin microbiota affects attractiveness to malaria mosquitoes

Niels O. Verhulst, Yu Tong Qiu, Hans Beijleveld, Chris Maliepaard, Dan Knights, Stefan Schulz, Donna Berg-Lyons, Christian L. Lauber, Willem Verduijn, Geert W. Haasnoot, Roland Mumm, Harro J. Bouwmeester, Frans H.J. Claas, Marcel Dicke, Joop J.A. van Loon, Willem Takken, Rob Knight, Renate C. Smallegange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


The African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto continues to play an important role in malaria transmission, which is aggravated by its high degree of anthropophily, making it among the foremost vectors of this disease. In the current study we set out to unravel the strong association between this mosquito species and human beings, as it is determined by odorant cues derived from the human skin. Microbial communities on the skin play key roles in the production of human body odour. We demonstrate that the composition of the skin microbiota affects the degree of attractiveness of human beings to this mosquito species. Bacterial plate counts and 16S rRNA sequencing revealed that individuals that are highly attractive to An. gambiae s.s. have a significantly higher abundance, but lower diversity of bacteria on their skin than individuals that are poorly attractive. Bacterial genera that are correlated with the relative degree of attractiveness to mosquitoes were identified. The discovery of the connection between skin microbial populations and attractiveness to mosquitoes may lead to the development of new mosquito attractants and personalized methods for protection against vectors of malaria and other infectious diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere28991
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 28 2011


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