In a study by Rockefeller University, researchers identified the people most attracted to mosquitoes, suggesting that it might have something to do with how they smell.
Researchers have found that people who are “mosquito magnets” produce many specific, attractive-smelling chemicals on their skin called carboxylates. These substances are found in the sebum we secrete from our glands and are used by the bacteria on our skin to create our unique body odor.
The worst news for mosquito magnets is that mosquitoes stay loyal to their pets over time.
“If you have high levels of these substances on your skin, you’re the one who gets all the bites at the picnic,” said study author Leslie Foshall, a neuroscientist at the Rockefeller University in New York and director of the university’s Neurogenetics and Neurogenetics Laboratory. Behavior.
“There are many opinions about who gets bitten more often, but many claims are not supported by hard evidence,” she added.
To understand “mosquito magnetism,” study author Maria Elena de Obaldia said the researchers designed an experiment that pitted people’s scents against each other. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Cell.
They asked 64 university volunteers to wear nylon stockings over their forearms to catch the scent of leather. The socks were placed in separate traps at the end of a long pipe, after which dozens of mosquitoes were released.
De Obaldia explained that mosquitoes are generally inclined towards more attractive specimens that contain a certain chemical composition, saying: “It was immediately very clear.”
The experiment used Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which spread diseases such as yellow fever, Zika fever and dengue fever. Foshall said she expects similar results in other species, but she will need more research to confirm this.
Matt DeGinaro, a neurogeneticist at Florida International University who was not involved in the study, showed that when testing the same people over several years, the study found these significant differences persisted.
“It looks like a mosquito magnet remains a mosquito magnet,” he said.
Fossall explained that “lipid molecules” are part of the skin’s natural moisture layer, and people produce them in varying amounts. She said healthy bacteria living on the skin eat these acids and produce some of the skin’s odor.
She added that getting rid of these acids without harming the health of the skin is impossible.
Jeff Revell, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington who was not involved in the study, said the study could help find new ways to repel mosquitoes. He said there could be ways to defeat skin bacteria and change people’s confusing odors.
However, according to Revell, finding ways to fight mosquitoes isn’t easy because they originally evolved as “skinny biting machines,” which has been proven by the study, as the researchers also did the experiment on mosquitoes whose genes were altered to destroy it. sense of smell, however, these insects flock to the same “mosquito magnets”.
“Mosquitoes are resilient,” Foshall said. “They have a lot of backup plans to find and bite us.”