Researchers can now smell malaria

Researchers can now smell malaria

Doctors newspaper online, 15.05.2018

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Irresistible smell

A malaria test should be fast and inexpensive. The body odor already betrays an infection, before symptoms appear, scientists have now discovered ?? and hope to develop such a test.

The malaria agent alters the perfume profile of an infected person, making them more attractive to the pathogen-bearing Anopheles mosquito. © James Gathany, ETH Zurich / CDC

ZURICH. A malaria infection can be smelled: researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a corresponding test approach and published in the magazine “PNAS” (doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1801512115). The scientists have identified an odor profile, which only fattening out sick people, the Swiss write in a statement. They hope to recognize infected people in the future who do not show any symptoms.
In collaboration with Kenyan colleagues at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, the researchers studied Kenyan children’s volatile chemical compounds that are exhaled through the skin. In more than 400 schoolchildren, they analyzed their exhalations using gas chromatographs.
Different perfume concentration
By comparing affected and healthy children, the Zurich researchers found out which odor compounds indicate a malaria infection. “The specific odor signature of the disease is caused by changes in the concentration of substances that are also present in healthy people,” explains Consuelo De Moraes, Professor of Biocommunication and Ecology. The changes in concentration distinguish the healthy from the sick. According to their own information, the detection rate for asymptomatic infections was almost 100 percent.
And: The smell test distinguishes between an asymptomatic and an acute infection, according to the ETH team. The researchers themselves were surprised that the odor profile of both patient groups differed significantly.
Cheap early test for malaria?
The developed profile could serve as a concept for a favorable malaria early test. For previous tests for an early infection ?? for example by means of PCR ?? a laboratory infrastructure is needed, which makes the tests comparatively expensive. Already last year American researchers had one Respiratory test developed that had identified malaria with a 83 percent accuracy in a study , One of the identified fragrances smelled like pine trees.
The scientists also suggest that other diseases that are transmitted by a host are detectable by smell test. Diseases changed the fragrance of the infected. This would in turn attract hosts, thereby starting a cycle of infection.
Researchers had discovered this cycle when they observed which mice particularly like mosquitoes. They had found that infected mice are irresistibly attractive to those Anopheles mosquitoes. Thus, the team came up with the idea that the stinging attractiveness could also be determined by the smell in humans. (Ajo)

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