AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Carboxylic acid

Do mosquitos bug some people more than others?

Over time, many have questioned whether or not some people are more susceptible, or attractive, to mosquitoes than others. Some have thought that it was one’s blood type, some have thought it was due to smell, and some have thought that the idea is truly a myth. It was highly suggested that attraction to mosquitos was due to scent, but never confirmed if true and what scents they would be attracted to.

Aedes aegypti during blood meal

A recent study has that scent is the answer to attraction of mosquitoes, and what scents they prefer the most. In this study, participants were asked to wear stockings on their arms for 6 hours, to imbue the stocking with each person’s unique smell. The researchers then put one piece of a volunteer’s stocking next to a piece of another observer’s stocking, and monitored whether or not the mosquitoes seemed to prefer one stocking over the other. The researchers concluded the mosquitoes definitely appeared to prefer certain stockings over others, one of the stockings in particular had “an attractiveness score ‘over 100 times greater’ than that of the least attractive subjects”. 



After the study, the researchers found that mosquitoes preferred stockings with more carboxylic acids. Carboxylic acids are organic compounds, which are produced by humans on our skin, moisturizing us, protecting us, and producing a sweaty smell on our skin. From the time we are born, us humans keep a constant Carboxylic-acidlevel of carboxylic acids on our skins, meaning that for the most part, our “attractiveness” towards mosquitoes is level for our entire lives. 




You might think that this is the end, that this study has proven that there is no hope for you to lose the status of “mosquito magnet” if you already are susceptible to mosquito bites, but this is not true. This study leads the way in future projects to reduce mosquito bites in mankind, as it revealed what the true issue we had to attack was. A biologist who specializes in mosquito research, Omar Akbari, has stated he is using the research to aid him in the development of mosquito repellents that will work for long periods of time(months). Akbari has already discovered specific carboxylic acids that mosquitoes are particularly attracted to, and is working with the Department of Defense to aid them in their work in insect control. He is working alongside the US government to develop these repellents, truly proving that there is hope for those who feel they are 


Why is it That I Tend to Get More Mosquito Bites Than All Of My Friends?

Have you ever wondered why some people get more mosquito bites than others? To your surprise it is not because they have “sweet blood,” there is actually an odor that our body produces, some more than others, that attracts mosquitoes. Jason Arunn Murugesuu, a reporter for the New Scientist, recently published an article regarding research conducted by Maria Elena De Obaldia at Rockefeller University in New York. In this study, they posed the question of whether body odor affects mosquitos’ attractiveness to an individual.

Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany

In this experiment, there were two boxes that contained nylon fabric swatches that were worn by two different individuals, and in each box lay the fabrics. The third box held  female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The researchers tested which box most attracted the Aedes aegypti. After numerous trials, it was found that their results stayed persistent.

It was determined that nylon fabrics that most attract mosquitoes were worn by individuals that happened to have a higher concentration of carboxylic acids present in their body odor. The bacteria on our skin produce carboxylic acids, which are a result of sebum, a substance composed of lipids that lie on the skin’s surface as a protective barrier.


Sadly, one cannot necessarily prevent the amount of carboxylic acids our body produces to limit the number of mosquito bites. According to De Obaldia, our body’s odor comes down to our genetics, skin microbiome and diet. It is unlikely for body odor to be altered based on mild changes, such as a temporary change in diet. Skin bacteria live deep down in our pores, so it is unlikely that they can be removed, which is why they are a significant factor in our body odor.

Moreover, De Obaldia repeated the study but replaced the  Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with genetically modified mosquitoes that have a weakened ability to sense acids. After this experiment was conducted, the researchers found that some of the mosquitoes had a lessened preference for nylon fabrics that contained a higher concentration of carboxylic acids. 

This study concludes that mosquitoes do, in fact, have a preference as to who they are choosing to bite. Scientists now have a reasonable solution to decrease mosquitoes’ preference for humans and spread diseases, which is to genetically modify the mosquitoes. 

Now, after reading this, if you notice that you are getting more mosquito bites than all of your friends, it is possible that you have a higher amount of carboxylic acids present in your body odor. 


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