Scientists have new evidence to prove that mosquitoes do attract certain people if you’ve ever suspected you could be a mosquito magnet.
Leslie Vosshall (a Rockefeller University professor who heads its laboratory of neurogenetics, behavior, and behavior), led a research team that attempted to discover why some people attract more mosquitoes than others. The results of the research were published in Cell on October 18.
Researchers asked 64 volunteers over three years to wear nylon stockings around their arms for six hours each day over multiple days. Maria Elena De Obaldia is the study’s first author. Maria Elena De Obaldia is a former postdoctoral fellow from Rockefeller University. In an acrylic glass chamber, researchers placed two stockings. The study team released yellow-fever mosquitoes (scientifically called Aedes Aegypti), into the chamber. From there, they compared which stocking attracted the most insects.
The test enabled researchers to identify the different types of mosquito magnets and low attractors. These stockings attracted a lot more mosquitoes. Scientists looked at the skin of mosquito magnets and discovered 50 molecular compound levels that were higher than those found in other participants.
Vosshall is the chief scientific officer of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and said that they had no idea what they would find. A notable difference was that the mosquito magnets had higher levels of carboxylic acids on their skin than low-attractors.
Sebum, an oily substance that forms a barrier and keeps our skin moisturized, contains carboxylic acid.
Vosshall explained that carboxylic acid molecules are large molecules. They are “not very smelly” by themselves, she explained. Vosshall says that the beneficial bacteria in the skin “chews these acids”, which can produce the distinctive smell of humans, which may be what attracts mosquitoes.
The role of skin secretions and odor is important
One participant, Subject 33, was the belle de la ball for mosquitoes. The subject’s stockings were 100x more attractive to mosquitoes than the least attractive.
Vosshall explained that the attraction of humans seemed to remain fairly steady over time for those who were monitored over three years.
For instance, Subject 33 has “never taken a day off being the most attractive person,” which might be “bad news” for mosquito magnets.
Aedes Aegypti is a species of mosquito that prefers to eat human blood. This gives females the urgency they need to hunt for prey. Vosshall stated that the mini predators use many methods to find and bite humans.
Carboxylic acids, which are only one piece of the puzzle to explain how these pesky insects may choose their targets, are only part of the picture. Mosquitoes also like to be attracted by our body heat and the carbon dioxide we produce when we breathe.
Vosshall explained that scientists are still not sure why carboxylic acids attract mosquitoes so strongly. However, the next step could be to study the skin’s reactions to reducing carboxylic acids.
She stated that natural moisturizers cannot be removed completely from the skin. This would be harmful to skin health. Vosshall indicated that dermatological products could be used to reduce the number of carboxylic acids and decrease mosquito bites.
She said that each bite of these mosquitoes can put people at risk. “Aedes Aegypti is a vector for Zika, yellow flu, and dengue. People who are susceptible to viruses are much more likely than those who are not.
Mosquitoes can detect scents and hunt them.
Matthew DeGennaro from Florida International University, an associate professor who studies the neurogenetics and behavior of mosquitoes, stated that the results of this study will help to answer long-standing queries about the factors that make them love certain people more than others. He did not participate in the research.
He said, “This study demonstrates that these acids were important.” “It’s fascinating to see how mosquitoes perceive these carboxylic acids. They are so heavy that it’s difficult for them to be spotted from a distance.
“It is possible that these chemicals have been altered by the skin microbiome which causes an odor plume. Other factors in the environment could help to break down these chemicals, making it easier for mosquitoes.
DeGennaro said that the results were also “a very great example of what insects can smell.” “This insect has evolved to hunt us.”
DeGennaro finds the fascination in the persistence of certain human attractiveness to be one the most intriguing aspects of his research.
He stated that he did not know there were certain preferences for mosquitoes among people. “It could be that the skin microbiome might be important, even though they didn’t address that.”
To understand why mosquitoes are drawn to certain compounds, further research should be done to discover the microbiome of human skin. That could lead to improved products to reduce mosquito bites as well as the spread of disease.
DeGennaro explained that if we understand the reasons mosquitoes seek out a host, then we can create new repellents to block them from sensing these chemicals. “This could be used for improving our existing repellents.”