Limburger cheese, previously shown to attract female Anopheles gambiae Giles, was solvent extracted and chemically fractionated into acid and non-acid fractions. The extracts and aliquots of headspace odour of the cheese were analysed by gas chromatography and electron impact mass spectrometry. Nineteen saturated and unsaturated aliphatic fatty acids, ranging in carbon chain length from C2 to C18, were detected. The most abundant acids (>1 mg/g of cheese) identified in the acid extract were ethanoic, propanoic, butanoic, hexadecanoic and 9-octadecenoic acid. The same compounds were identified in analyses of headspace samples but only trace quantities of the less volatile acids (C10 to C16) were present, whilst C18 acids were absent. Behavioural responses of female A. gambiae towards a range of dilutions of the acid extract (in diethyl ether) were recorded in a windtunnel bioassay. The undiluted extract was found to be repellent, but became highly attractive (P «0.001) at lower doses, and was still significantly attractive (P<0.001) when diluted 106times. A synthetic mixture of 12 of the more abundant aliphatic acids identified in the acid extract was found to be significantly attractive (P<0.001) when diluted 108 times. Electroantennographic (EAG) studies showed significant and reproducible responses to (saturated) Limburger cheese headspace. At doses higher than 0.1%, the synthetic mixture of 12 acids elicited significantly higher EAG amplitudes than the solvent control (paraffin oil). EAG responses were recorded from mosquitoes stimulated with C5 to C8 acids, that were characterized by significant dose-dependencies. Weaker, though significant EAG responses were obtained with the less volatile acids (C9 to C14). Only hexadecanoic acid did not elicit a detectable response. The electrophysiological and behavioural responses obtained with fatty acids isolated from Limburger cheese suggests that together they could act as a kairomone for female A. gambiae. The implications of this are discussed together with the occurrence and bacterial production of these compounds on human skin.
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