Are You A Mosquito Magnet?
Are you a chosen one, a mosquito magnet? The next time you find yourself itching from a mosquito bite, wondering why mosquitos seem to bite you more than your companions, take solace in the fact that science might just have proven some people are more prone to attack from those tiny flying vampires.
A study recently released sheds new light on why some people are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than others.
The researchers focused on the African malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae), which finds human blood a very attractive host.
Their goal was to determine the role of different sensory cues emitted by humans, such as body odor, heat, and carbon dioxide (CO2), in guiding mosquito host-seeking behavior.
The study disproved old theories that suggested heat and visual cues alone are sufficient to attract African malaria mosquito.
Instead, the researchers found that mosquitoes require a combination of CO2 and whole-body odor to exhibit long-range host-seeking behavior. The presence of CO2 and human body odor synergistically triggers landing behavior in mosquitoes, while heat and visual cues alone are not effective.
If you're a mosquito magnet it comes as no surprise that some individuals are more attractive to mosquitoes than others.
Factors such as pregnancy, diet, alcohol consumption, skin microbiota, and genetics can influence the chemical composition of human body odor, thereby affecting mosquito attractiveness.
Pregnant women, individuals with certain skin microbiota, and those with specific chemical compounds in their body odor are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes.
The investigation found that peak periods of mosquito host-seeking activity occur during the late evening and early morning, specifically in the hours flanking midnight when humans are typically sleeping.
Mosquitoes are more likely to bite humans during this time when they emit body odor, CO2, and heat while being indoors.
The research highlights the importance of CO2 and whole-body odor in attracting mosquitos, at least the African variety. Findings disprove previous theories regarding heat and visual cues alone and identify factors that make certain individuals more attractive to mosquitoes.
Perhaps people who have always claimed to be the preferred target of these bloodsucking pests can now triumphantly exclaim, 'I told you so!' Meanwhile, the rest of us, who have always managed to escape mosquito attacks relatively unscathed, are left pondering our less tantalizing scent profiles and wondering if we're simply not tasty enough for these discerning insects.
No word if the study applies to North American varieties of mosquitos, or if there's anything one can do except cover yourself in insect repellent or hide inside.
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