If you’ve ever had the inkling that mosquitos just seem to prefer biting you over other people around you… you may not be wrong! The results of a new study, performed on sets of twins, suggests there is a genetic factor that affects the degree to which mosquitos crave our blood.
The authors of the new study, performed at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, explain:
“Female mosquitoes display preferences for certain individuals over others, which is determined by differences in volatile chemicals produced by the human body and detected by mosquitoes. Body odour can be controlled genetically but the existence of a genetic basis for differential attraction to insects has never been formally demonstrated.”
In order to demonstrate this genetic basis for the first time, the pilot study analyzed sets of both identical and nonidentical twins. Specifically, 18 identical twins, and 19 non-identical twins (all of them female), were analyzed. Participants placed their hands under one side of a Y-shaped tube, and mosquitos (Aedes aegypti dengue mosquitos, to be exact) above were able to fly down either one or the other side of the tube, depending on which direction attracted them most.
Results of the analysis showed that the identical twins were more similarly attractive to mosquitoes than the twins who were not identical. This in itself suggests a genetic factor, and the researchers hypothesize a genetic variable that controls body odor is at play. They also suggest that individuals who do not draw mosquitos as readily genetically produce a natural repellant.
The study authors wrote:
“Our results demonstrate an underlying genetic component to the human odour profile, a genetic difference that is detectable by mosquitoes through our odour and used during host selection.”
The researchers hope that this study can be used to further research, which can develop better ways of controlling mosquitos. However, there are many completely natural things we can do to protect ourselves from the critters — and chemical-based repellents are not the healthiest answer.
These repellants can not only be irritating to the skin and eyes, they may in some cases lead to other health problems, as well. Be especially wary of bug sprays that contain DEET. This compound has been linked to dizziness, nausea, rashes, numb lips, and headaches. Some research performed on rats has even linked DEET to changes in behavior. Scary.
Of course, it is important to take measures to protect against mosquitos — especially if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate. As we’ve recently covered, chikungunya fever, a virus new to this part of the world, has been spreading via mosquitos.
Luckily, nature has the answer. Check out our article on how to naturally repel mosquitos, and how to ease the stinging and swelling of their bites if they do occur. If you follow these tips, you’ll find yourself enjoying a much less itchy summer!
-The Alternative Daily