Why You Attract Mosquitoes

Do you get more mosquito bites than anyone else around you?  Are you convinced that mosquitoes are specifically attracted to you?  You may be right.

There are more than 3,500 different species of mosquitoes, most of whom get their nutrition from plants as other insects do.  In some species, though, the female needs blood nutrients in order to produce eggs (or a greater quantity of eggs).  It is therefore true that only the females bite humans.  Unfortunately, mosquitoes also account for more human deaths than any other animal on Earth due to their transmission of malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and other vector-borne pathogens.

The two major things that attract mosquitoes are body heat and carbon dioxide, which they can detect from 75 feet away.  Mosquitoes are more attracted to heavy breathers, crowds, larger people and pregnant women (who all unfortunately generate more CO2 and body heat.)

Other attractants include lactic acid (generated by exercise and sweat), foot bacteria and perfume.  Some studies show that mosquitoes also prefer Type O blood, but there is some debate about this.  You will not change your attractiveness by eating certain foods or wearing particular colors.  Ultimately, genetics account for 85 percent of your susceptibility to mosquito bites.

Here is another amazing fact: hosts that have been infected with malaria attract more mosquitoes.  Swiss researchers using Agilent equipment recently discovered why.

Malaria parasites in infected mice actually altered the odor profiles of their hosts, causing the mice to exhibit more volatile emissions.  This occurred during the period when the mice were most infectious.  The conclusion is that the malaria pathogen is trying to attract more mosquitoes in order to increase its transmission.

The scientists are hopeful that this discovery will lead to better olfactory lures and repellents to disrupt the spread of malaria and other diseases.  Researchers used an Agilent GC, GC-FID, and Mass Selective Detector for their work.


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