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You’ve probably heard all the theories by now. Mosquitos bite some people and not others because of a vitamin B deficiency. Maybe it’s because you just had a beer. Another notion is people with type O blood are incredibly yummy to the flying insect. Still, others say pregnancy is an attraction. There have been plenty of suspicions regarding why the insects prefer one person over another but few conclusions. If you are one of those who get more than your fair share of mosquito bites, there is some good news to be found in a recently published scientific study.
Dinner For Two?
Why the Aedes aegypti prefers some people over others does matter. These nasty little beasts are highly efficient at spreading diseases. Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever are just a few illnesses humans can contract from a mosquito bite. Several studies also claim this pesky little creature is the cause of more than 700,000 deaths each year.
The science periodical Cell published a new study this week that offers some insight – and a few conclusions – about why some people are feasted upon and others left alone. Mosquitos have a highly developed sense of smell, and researchers found they are especially attracted to people with elevated levels of carboxylic acid on their skin.
The back story for inquiring minds is that “A single female mosquito will bite multiple humans during her 3- to 6-week lifetime to obtain sufficient protein to produce a new batch of eggs as often as every 4 days,” according to the report. In other words, since the bug speed-feeds, it’s best to go to the cafeteria. Humans with carboxylic acids mixed with ammonia and lactic acid are the ultimate buffet for a mosquito. The red itchy rash resulting from a mosquito bite comes from the bug’s saliva left on your skin.
The study was conducted over three years by using nylon stockings as bait. People wore stockings so researchers could collect their skin substances. Then the mosquitos were released into an area with several stockings. Scientists recorded which nylon attracted the most insects. Again and again, one winner emerged and proved to be 100 times more alluring than the others – and it was the one with the most carboxylic acids.
Carboxylic acids are a waxy coating that seeps from your pores. These compounds are present in all human skin, but some people generate more of it than others. The smell drives the female mosquito crazy for blood and changing your shampoo or body lotion won’t fix the problem. However, there are a few things one can do until private researchers get ahold of this information to develop more effective skin repellents.
Mosquito Bites – Best Practices
Lactic acid will be present on your skin if you’ve just exercised. Working out and then sitting by the pool is an invitation for these pesky little creatures to feast upon your skin. Taking off your sneakers makes it worse because feet often hold the most pungent odors in the human body. Researchers suggest showering before going outside because soap and water reduce carboxylic sebum on the skin. It’s also a good idea to wash your feet thoroughly if you want to avoid being a mosquito magnet.
Private industry is likely to jump on this new information and set its scientists to finding an antidote or an odor mask to this tantalizing smell. Until then, wash, rinse and repeat may be the best weapon against these nasty little vampires.
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