Why mosquitoes bite some people more than others
The results, published in the journal Cell, say mosquitoes are attracted to people who produce certain chemicals on their skin. In particular, carboxylic acids.
"If you have high levels of this stuff on your skin, you're going to be the one at the picnic getting all the bites," said study author Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University in New York.
The study invovled 64 volunteers. Researchers asked them to wear nylon stockings around their forearms to pick up their skin smells. The stockings were then cut up and put in separate traps at the end of a long tube. Mosquitoes were then released to see which scents they preferred.
"They would basically swarm to the most attractive subjects," said Maria Elena De Obaldia, a senior scientist at the biotech company Kingdom Supercultures and lead author of this new study. "It became very obvious right away."
The participants were tested multiple times, several months apart and unfortunately, once a mosquito magnet, always a mosquito magnet.
What are carboxylic acids?
Humans produce carboxylic acids in our sebum, the oily layer that coats our skin to keep it moisturised and protected.
The healthy bacteria on our skin then eats the acid, and that makes up our natural scent.
While the amount of acid produced varies with each person, humans have much higher levels than animals.
Unfortunately, the study was too small to identify what makes someone produce higher levels of carboxylic acids. The only way to test your skin is in a lab.
Researchers say the findings could help to find new ways of repelling mosquitoes.
Jeff Riffell, a neurobiologist at the University of Washington who was not involved with the study, told Scientific American that it won't be easy, saying mosquitoes have evolved to be "lean, mean-biting machines".
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