Mosquitoes hunt down any member of the human species by tracking our CO2 exhalations, body heat, and body odor. Some of us who get more than our fair share of bites are called “mosquito magnets.”
There are many popular theories for why someone might be a preferred snack, including blood type, blood sugar level, or being a woman or child. Yet there is little credible data to support most of these theories. Ivanhoe has more on what might make you a mosquito magnet.
Mosquitoes, one of the few insects to evolve a taste for human blood which is an incredibly protein-rich meal.
“When they bite, it’s uncomfortable cause there’s an irritation associated with the biting of the mosquito. It’s actually injecting saliva into your body,” said Michael Roe, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Entomology at NC State University.
Each year, mosquitoes infect about 400 million humans with the dengue virus while they taste your blood. In addition to dengue, they transmit viruses such as yellow fever, Zika virus, and chikungunya.
Certain people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others because they have higher levels of carboxylic acids on their skin. The acid is produced through sebum, an oily layer that coats a person’s skin.
Roe and his colleagues are working on a mosquito repellant cloth to prevent even these people from getting infected by these pesky insects.
Roe said, “We have an amazing scientist on our team that’s a mathematician. He can mathematically define all those perimeters, combining them to describe what a cloth would have to be like to prevent mosquitoes from biting.”
Scientists at Rockefeller University believe the solution might be to manipulate our skin microbiomes, but until then, keep using lots of bug spray!
Mosquito preference is a “central question” for researchers and the public. What is unclear is whether mosquitoes use these compounds only to preferentially search out humans or if a combination of scents indicates that particular individuals might make better meals. But understanding the chemicals behind mosquito attraction could one day lead to a topical cream that could bring some relief for those on the tastier end of the mosquito magnet scale.