Some people feel like they are called “mosquito magnet” as they seem to get more than their fair share of bites.
There are many popular theories as to why someone might be the preferred snack, including blood type, blood sugar levels, or simply being a woman or a child. However there is little credible data to support most of these theories.
However, there are certain factors, supported by science, that may explain why some people are more prone to being bitten.
Mosquitoes are one of the few insects that have evolved a taste for human blood, which makes them a very protein-rich diet.
“When they bite, it's uncomfortable because there's irritation associated with mosquito bites. The mosquito actually injects saliva into your body,” says Michael Roe, Ph. D., who is a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University.
Each year, mosquitoes infect around 400 million people with the dengue virus. And besides dengue, they transmit viruses like yellow fever, Zika virus, and chikungunya.
In addition to tracking puffs of carbon dioxide, body heat and odor, scientists say certain people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others because they have higher levels of carboxylic acids in their skin. Acid is produced via sebum, the oily layer that coats a person's skin.
Roe and his colleagues are working on mosquito repellent fabrics to prevent those people, and others, from being infected by those pesky insects.
“We have an amazing scientist on our team (who is) a mathematician. He can mathematically define all of those parameters, put them together to describe what the fabric looks like to prevent mosquito bites,” he said.
Scientists at Rockefeller University believe the solution is to manipulate our skin microbiome.
What is not clear is whether mosquitoes use these compounds exclusively to search for humans or whether the combination of scents can make certain individuals “better food”.
A research team led by Dr. Anandasankar Ray at UC Riverside, set out to determine the connections between the receptors needed to attract skin odors.
For example, ethyl pyruvate, which has a fruity odor and is recognized as a food flavoring agent, blocks the attraction of mosquitoes to human hands. But cyclopentanone, which smells minty and is approved as a flavoring and fragrance agent, attracts mosquitoes to baited traps as effectively as carbon dioxide.
These potentially affordable ‘mask' and ‘pull' strategies can be used in complementary ways, offering people in Africa, Asia and South America ideal solutions and much-needed assistance – wherever mosquito-borne diseases are a concern. endemic,” said Ray.
Understanding the chemicals behind mosquito attraction could one day lead to topical creams.
Until then, the CDC and EPA say bug spray containing DEET is the gold standard, but other products with picaridin and lemon eucalyptus oil are also highly rated for repelling mosquitoes.