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Why mosquitoes attack some people more often than others

You come from a summer walk covered in tiny red dots from mosquito bites, only to find that your friends don’t have anywhere near as many bites as you have. Or, on a camping trip, wake up with bitten legs, with your colleagues in the tent almost intact.

You are not alone. About 20% of people are particularly fond of mosquitoes and bite them more often than usual. While scientists have no mosquito solution to date, except for repellents (which, as recently revealed, mosquitoes gain immunity over time), they have many ideas, thanks to some of us preferring to attack. Here are some facts that play a role:

Blood type

Unsurprisingly, scientists have proven that some blood type mosquitoes taste better than others. Blood group 0 is almost double that of blood group A (after all, mosquitoes bite us to get protein from our blood). People with blood type B are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Usually, based on their genetic makeup, about 85% of people excrete chemical signals through their skin that indicate which blood type they have. In 15% of people, this is not the case, and mosquitoes are more attracted to those who secrete this chemistry than those who do not send a chemical signal, depending on their blood type.

Carbon dioxide

One way mosquitoes locate their prey is by the amount of carbon dioxide they release through their breath, using a body called the maxillary tentacle, which can detect carbon dioxide from as far as 50 meters. As a result, people who emit more gas than others are proven to attract mosquitoes more than others. This is one reason why they bite children less often than adults.

Exercise and metabolism

In addition to carbon dioxide, mosquitoes seek their victims by sniffing, at short distances, lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia, and other substances excreted by the body through sweating, and have been observed to be attracted to people with a higher body temperature. Since strenuous exercise increases lactic acid excretion and increases body temperature, you are more likely to be the target of insects. Genetic factors affect the amount of uric acid and other chemical substances naturally emitted by each person, which makes it easy for some people to detect mosquitoes.

Skin bacteria

Research indicates that some specific types and amounts of bacteria that naturally inhabit human skin affect our attraction to mosquitoes. In a 2011 study, scientists found that the presence of large amounts of a couple of bacteria species attracts mosquitoes. It is surprising that if more bacteria with more species are present, that makes the skin less attractive to mosquitoes. This is also why mosquitoes often bite our joints and feet – because these are the areas with the most bacterial colonies.

Beer

Just one small bottle of beer can make you more attractive to mosquitoes, scientific results show. But although the researchers speculated that this was because ethanol was increasing in sweat or because body temperature was rising after drinking beer, none of these factors were found to be associated with more frequent mosquito landings, which makes their appetite for brewing a mystery.

Pregnancy

In several different studies, pregnant women have been found to be twice as likely to attract mosquitoes as the rest of the population. This is because they exhale about 21% more carbon dioxide and have an average body temperature of 1.26 degrees.

The color of the clothes

This may sound absurd, but mosquitoes use sight (along with other senses) to locate people, so wearing noticeable colors like red, black or dark blue can make you more visible to mosquitoes, at least according to James Day, a medical entomologist at the University of Florida.

Genetics

85% of the estimates that mosquitoes make about what people are attracted to them are based on genetic factors, whether expressed through blood type, metabolism, and more. Unfortunately, we (yet) don’t have a way to modify these genes, but over time …

Natural repellents

Some scientists have addressed the reasons why some people are rarely attracted to mosquitoes in the hope that this will help them create a new generation of repellents. Using chromatography to isolate certain chemicals emitted by these people, scientists at the British Rothamsted Research Laboratory have found that they naturally excrete a range of mosquito repellent substances. Perhaps incorporating these molecules into some future insect spray would also help those with blood type 0, pregnant women and those in black T-shirts get rid of mosquitoes once and for all.

What do you think?

Written by michael

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