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.
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.