Health See Inside Scent of a Human: The Battle against Mosquitoes Decoding how a mosquito sniffs out human targets could lead to better traps and repellents that cut malaria's spread By John R. Carlson and Allison F. Carey David Scharf Mosquitoes have remarkably refined powers of smell. The insects that spread malaria across sub-Saharan Africa come exquisitely equipped to find human blood. They home in on the scent of human breath and sweat and swiftly insert their needlelike mouthparts into the target’s skin. As they dine, their saliva transmits the malaria parasite into the wound. With a simple bite, they can ultimately take a life. Other mosquitoes prefer different species—say, cattle or birds. Some, it seems, even favor selected individuals within the target group; certain people at a summer barbeque will be attacked relentlessly, yet others will remain unbitten. And some mosquitoes can identify their victims from more than 165 feet. This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now! Select an option below: Buy Digital Issue Customer Sign In *You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com. Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access. ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2015 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.