Mosquitoes are widespread pesky insects that bite you to suck up blood, leaving your skin’s surface with red, itchy bumps. And what’s even more annoying is when they target you more than others.
Now you might wonder why these mosquitoes seem to “love” you more than other people.
What if I tell you there’s a scientific reason why they are attracted to you? And it has something to do with your smell!
Yes. You read that right.
A new study published in the journal Cell finds that people who are “mosquito magnets” produce a certain body odor that attracts them. Researchers discovered mosquitoes often swarm over people that produce high levels of carboxylic acid on their skin.
Carboxylic acid is an organic compound produced by all humans through sebum, a sticky oil substance. It keeps the skin moisturized and protected. The sebum is then eaten by the beneficial bacteria that live on the skin, producing an odor like cheese or feet that attracts mosquitoes in large amounts.
Unfortunately, the levels of carboxylic acid produced vary from person to person. So if you have lots of these chemical compounds on your skin, you’re likely to be mosquitoes’ picnic, getting all the bites.
To get these findings, the researchers asked 64 volunteers to wear nylon stockings on their forearms for six hours a day over multiple days to pick up their skin smells. The experiment was conducted for three years.
The stockings were put in separate acrylic glass chambers, and observed which stocking drew more mosquitoes. The team used the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads lethal diseases like Zika fever, dengue, yellow fever, and other disease agents.
The experiment found that Subject 33, the biggest mosquito magnet was 100 times more attractive than “low attractor” participants to mosquitoes.
The scientists examined the mosquito magnets’ skin and found they had high levels of carboxylic acids on their skin. And they also discovered that mosquito magnets remain attractive to mosquitoes over time, regardless of grooming habits or changes in diet.
So is there any way to prevent them from biting you, especially if you suspect yourself as a mosquito magnet?
Researchers say you can’t get rid of these acids without damaging the health of your skin. However, this finding may help develop new ways to repel mosquitoes and fight off bites. This could also pave the way to developing more effective mosquito repellents in the future.