Experts have found people seem to become more attractive to mosquitoes when they’re pregnant or after they’ve had a few beers, prompting further research into whether mosquitoes may be drawn to certain odors.
Researchers at Rockefeller University in New York found people who have higher levels of certain acids on their skin are 100 times more attractive to the female Aedes aegypti, the type of mosquito responsible for spreading diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika.
The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Cell, could lead to new products that could mask or alter certain human odors, making it harder for mosquitoes to find human blood and potentially curbing the spread of disease.
Mosquito-borne diseases impact about 700 million people per year, and experts expect that number to increase as global temperatures rise.
Researchers collected the natural scent from people’s skin by having them wear nylon stockings on their arms. They cut the stockings into two-inch pieces and placed two pieces of the fabric behind two separate trap doors in a clear plastic box where dozens of mosquitoes were flying around. The researchers then opened the traps and the insects would choose to fly to the bait — the stockings — behind the first or the second door.
The study found that people who have higher levels of compounds called carboxylic acids on their skin, are more likely to be “mosquito magnets”.
All humans produce carboxylic acid through sebum, a waxy coating, on their skin. The sebum is then eaten by the millions of beneficial microorganisms that colonize our skin to produce more carboxylic acid. In copious amounts, the acid can produce an odor that smells like cheese or smelly feet. That smell appears to attract the female mosquitoes on the hunt for human blood.
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