Mosquito magnets are real and it comes down to the persons smell

Are you a mosquito magnet? It could your smell! People who produce high levels of acids on their skin are more attractive to the bloodsuckers, study finds

  • A new study provides evidence that people can be mosquito magnets 
  • Researchers found people who produce high levels of certain acids on their skin are more attractive to the pests
  • This discover could lead to new repellents, as experts are looking to tinker with skin bacteria to change humans smells 

Some people swear that they are ‘mosquito magnets’ and a new study suggests they actually – and it all comes down to the way they smell.

A team of researchers at Rockefeller University in New York found that people who are most attractive to mosquitoes produce high levels of certain acids on their skin.

Removing acid can damage your skin health, according to study author and neurobiologist Leslie Vosshall, but this discovery could help uncover new methods to repel the bloodsuckers. 

The team is looking at ways to tinker with skin bacteria and change humans tantalizing smells.

 A team of researchers at Rockefeller University in New York found that people who are most attractive to mosquitoes produce high levels of certain acids on their skin

And bad news for mosquito magnets: The bloodsuckers stay loyal to their favorites over time.

‘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 Vosshall.

‘There’s a lot of folklore about who gets bitten more but many claims aren’t backed up with strong evidence,’ she continued. 

The study was performed with 64 volunteers the university and nearby, who were asked to wear nylon stockings around their forearms to pick up their skin smells. 

The stockings were put in separate traps at the end of a long tube, then dozens of mosquitos were released.

Study author Maria Elena De Obaldia said in a statement: ‘They would basically swarm to the most attractive subjects,’ De Obaldia said. ‘It became very obvious right away.’

Scientists held a round-robin tournament and ended up with a striking gap: The biggest mosquito magnet was around 100 times more attractive to the mosquitoes than the last place finisher.

The experiment used the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads diseases like yellow fever, Zika and dengue. 

The team is looking at ways to tinker with skin bacteria and change humans tantalizing smells

Vosshall said she’d expect similar results from other kinds, but would need more research to confirm.

By testing the same people over multiple years, the study showed that these big differences stick around, said Matt DeGennaro, a neurogeneticist at Florida International University who was not involved with the research.

‘Mosquito magnets seem to remain mosquito magnets,’ DeGennaro said.

These ‘greasy molecules’ are part of the skin´s natural moisturizing layer, and people produce them in different amounts, Vosshall said. 

The healthy bacteria that live on the skin eat up these acids and produce part of our skin´s odor profile.

Still, figuring out ways to fight off mosquitoes isn’t easy, Riffell said, since the critters have evolved to be ‘lean, mean biting machines.’

The study proved this point: Researchers also did the experiment with mosquitoes whose genes were edited to damage their sense of smell. The bugs still flocked to the same mosquito magnets.

‘Mosquitoes are resilient,’ Vosshall said. ‘They have many backup plans to be able to find us and bite us.’

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