Are You a Mosquito Magnet?


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Mosquitos hunt down any member of the human species by tracking our CO2 exhalations, body heat, and body odor. Some of us are called “mosquito magnets” who get more than our fair share of bites. There are many popular theories for why someone might be a preferred snack, including blood type, blood sugar level, or being a woman or child. Yet there is little credible data to support most of these theories. Ivanhoe has more on what might make you a mosquito magnet.

Mosquitos … one of the few insects to evolve a taste for human blood … an incredibly protein-rich meal.

Michael Roe, PhD, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Entomology at NC State University says, “When they bite, it’s uncomfortable cause there’s an irritation associated with the biting of the mosquito. It’s actually injecting saliva into your body.”

Each year, mosquitos infect about 400 million humans with the dengue virus while they taste your blood. In addition to dengue, they transmit viruses such as yellow fever, zika virus, and chikungunya.

Certain people are more attractive to mosquitos than others because they have higher levels of carboxylic acids on their skin. The acid is produced through sebum, an oily layer that coats a person’s skin.

Professor Michael Roe and his colleagues are working on a mosquito repellant cloth to prevent even these people from getting infected by these pesky insects.

Doctor Roe says, “We have an amazing scientist on our team that’s a mathematician. He can mathematically define all those perimeters, combining them to describe what a cloth would have to be like to prevent mosquitos from biting.”

Scientists at Rockefeller University believe the solution might be to manipulate our skin microbiomes, but until then, keep using lots of bug spray!

Mosquito preference is a “central question” for researchers and the public. What is unclear is whether mosquitoes use these compounds only to preferentially search out humans or if a combination of scents indicates that particular individuals might make better meals. But understanding the chemicals behind mosquito attraction could one day lead to a topical cream that could bring some relief for those on the tastier end of the mosquito magnet scale.

Contributors to this news report include: Adahlia Thomas, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.


REPORT #3069

BACKGROUND: Mosquito bites can cause red bumps and itching through an allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. A more serious result of some mosquito bites can be the transmission of diseases and viruses such as malaria, dengue virus, Zika, and West Nile virus. There are about 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States. These different species live in specific habitats, exhibit unique behaviors, and bite different types of animals. Different species of mosquitoes prefer different types of standing water in which to lay their eggs. Predators such as fish and dragonfly nymphs in ponds, lakes and streams help keep these bodies of water relatively free of mosquito larvae. Other places mosquitoes lay their eggs include tree holes,

old tires, buckets, toys, potted plant trays and saucers.


SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: Female mosquitos are the ones that transmit diseases since it is only the females that consume blood. A mosquito will acquire the virus when feeding on the blood of a host with the infection and then transfer the virus to a new host during its next feed. Symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases can include nausea; vomiting; joint pain; fever; chills; headache; fatigue; rash; red eyes; back pain; and jaundice. There is no specific treatment for mosquito-borne diseases, and antibiotics are ineffective against their viruses. However, doctors treat symptoms and provide supportive therapy, and people often recover completely. Prevention is the most effective defense against mosquito-borne diseases. A person can lower their risk of getting these viruses by vaccinating where possible; using insect repellant on exposed skin; covering skin with long pants, long sleeves, and socks; ensuring windows have screens; and removing standing water near properties where mosquitos breed.


NEW MOSQUITO RESEARCH: New findings may help direct strategies to control mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit. Researchers have discovered a receptor that mosquitoes use to detect carbon dioxide and skin odor, and identified the compounds that interact with the receptor. Female mosquitoes have nerve cells called cpA neurons that have a receptor to detect carbon dioxide which enables them to sense the plumes of air we exhale. A team of researchers led by Dr. Anandasankar Ray at University of California, Riverside, set out to determine the neurons and receptors required for attraction to skin odor. Ethyl pyruvate, which has a fruity smell and is approved as a flavor agent in food, blocked attraction of mosquitoes to a human hand. Conversely, cyclopentanone, which is minty-smelling and is approved as a flavor and fragrance agent, attracted mosquitoes to a baited trap as effectively as carbon dioxide. “These potentially affordable ‘mask’ and ‘pull’ strategies could be used in a complementary manner, offering an ideal solution and much needed relief to people in Africa, Asia, and South America, wherever mosquito-borne diseases are endemic,” Ray says.


* For More Information, Contact:                         Lauren Barker

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