Ever wonder why you or someone you know is always a feast for mosquitoes at the picnic, camping, and other outdoor activities? Researchers at Rockefeller University in New York have some answers. It involves everything with people’s body odor.
Mosquito magnet myths
Many myths explain why some people get bitten more by mosquitoes and others don’t. Blood type, blood sugar levels, being a woman or child, and consuming garlic and bananas are a few such popular myths. There is no empirical or scientific evidence for them, and yet, over time these myths have become widely circulated pseudoscience theories. If you are wondering what to believe when it comes to being a mosquito magnet person, here is what a recent study has to say.
What’s a mosquito magnet?
Mosquitoes find some people more attractive than others. These people are called mosquito magnets. The attractiveness level here has nothing to do with your physical appearance and everything to do with the way you smell. The new study reveals that mosquitoes get attracted to certain body odors more than others. These body odors tend to have an abundance of skin-associated carboxylic acids.
Body odors and mosquito magnets
The human body odor is a blend of many organic compounds. It gets produced by the skin microbiota. These are healthy bacteria that live on the skin, particularly in the superficial layers of the epidermis and upper parts of hair follicles. Skin microbiota eat up the fatty acids emanating from the skin and produce body odor.
The study says that a mosquito magnet person produces more skin-associated carboxylic acids. The microbiota consumes these acids and produces body odors that mosquitoes get attracted towards.
The mosquito magnet study
64 volunteers from the Rockefeller University and surrounding areas participated in the study. Researchers used the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads diseases like yellow fever, zika, and dengue, for this study.
Volunteers had to wear nylon stockings around their forearms to pick up their skin smells. Each stocking was then separately placed in a long tube. About 20 female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released into the tube and observed.
Compounds of the stockings that attracted the most mosquitoes were then analyzed. These contained elevated levels of carboxylic acids. Thus yielding the finding that, mosquitoes are attracted to humans who produce more carboxylic acids in their skin.
Benefits of research on mosquito magnets
Researchers of the study claim that finding out what in a human attracts mosquitoes the most has important public health implications. The findings can help design solutions that make people less attractive to mosquitoes. One such solution is skin microbiota manipulation.
Understanding what makes someone a mosquito magnet will help in the effective deployment of medical resources and preventive measures to combat the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever, Zika, and dengue.
However, more research among large groups of people is required in this area. Recent studies have demonstrated that malaria infection enhances human attractiveness to mosquitoes by altering the chemistry of human skin odor, leading to greater pathogen transmission.