The smell of success: Detection of nutritious blood meals by mosquitoes


Mosquitoes are important vectors of infectious diseases and successful transmission depends on the efficacy of host discrimination and blood uptake. This process is directed by the need for the mosquito to feed on those hosts that provide greatest fitness. We have preliminary evidence that mosquitoes can detect the quality of the blood meal based on the volatiles emitted from the human skin. The mosquito would thus be able to decide who is the best host for the development of her eggs. We will unravel one of the most important evolutionary mechanisms behind mosquito host choice by answering the hypothesis that malaria mosquitoes detect the quality of a host by its skin volatiles. Therefore, we will link someone’s attractiveness towards mosquitoes with his/her blood quality. Blood of 40 individuals will be analysed and fed to the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae in vivo and in vitro to determine differences in egg production. In addition, odour samples will be analysed and tested for attractiveness to An. gambiae. To determine the specificity of the interaction found, the response of mosquito species with different host preferences will be evaluated. Candidate volatiles will be tested in a field trial in Kenya to confirm their effect in a natural setting. This will be the first study that links someone’s attractiveness to mosquitoes with that individual’s blood quality, which will have an impact on mosquito population dynamics and disease transmission. Identification of the blood constituents and volatile profiles are expected to lead to novel vector control tools.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. ir. W. Takken

Affiliated with

Wageningen University & Research, Plantenwetenschappen, Laboratorium voor Entomologie (ENT)

Team members

Ir. M.M. de Swart


01/11/2017 to 31/08/2021