Skin microbiome alters attractiveness to Anopheles mosquitoes

Alicia Showering, Julien Martinez, Ernest Diez Benavente, Salvador A Gezan, Robert T Jones, Catherine Oke, Scott Tytheridge, Elizabeth Pretorius, Darren Scott, Rachel L Allen, Umberto D'Alessandro, Steve W Lindsay, John A L Armour, John Pickett, James G Logan

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BACKGROUND: Some people produce specific body odours that make them more attractive than others to mosquitoes, and consequently are at higher risk of contracting vector-borne diseases. The skin microbiome can break down carbohydrates, fatty acids and peptides on the skin into volatiles that mosquitoes can differentiate.

RESULTS: Here, we examined how skin microbiome composition of women differs in relation to level of attractiveness to Anopheles coluzzii mosquitoes, to identify volatiles in body odour and metabolic pathways associated with individuals that tend to be poorly-attractive to mosquitoes. We used behavioural assays to measure attractiveness of participants to An. coluzzii mosquitoes, 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of the bacteria sampled from the skin and gas chromatography of volatiles in body odour. We found differences in skin microbiome composition between the poorly- and highly-attractive groups, particularly eight Amplicon Sequence Variants (ASVs) belonging to the Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes phyla. Staphylococcus 2 ASVs are four times as abundant in the highly-attractive compared to poorly-attractive group. Associations were found between these ASVs and volatiles known to be attractive to Anopheles mosquitoes. Propanoic pathways are enriched in the poorly-attractive participants compared to those found to be highly-attractive.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that variation in attractiveness of people to mosquitoes is related to the composition of the skin microbiota, knowledge that could improve odour-baited traps or other next generation vector control tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number98
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Anopheles coluzzii
  • Body odour
  • Diversity
  • Human attractiveness
  • Malaria
  • Mosquitoes
  • Repellents
  • Skin microbiome


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