Not all humans are created equally in the eyes of mosquitos, new research shows. The blood-sucking insects were found to be less attracted to people with a greater variety of bacteria living on their skin.
Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands collected a variety of human volatiles, the chemical stamp responsible for odor, from 48 men. Mosquitoes choose their victims by smell, and bacteria determine the smell given off by skin. The volatiles were offered to an African species of mosquito that carries a parasite that can infect victims with malaria. The disease killed 655,000 people in 2010, according to the World Health Organization.
Of the 48 test subjects, nine with greater bacterial variety were deemed “highly attractive” to mosquitoes, while seven were “poorly attractive,” with the rest falling somewhere in the middle.
"We hypothesize that the lower attractiveness to mosquitoes is caused by a selective group of skin microbiota that emanates compounds that interfere with the attraction of mosquitoes to their human hosts," wrote the researchers in the study, published in the open-access online journal PLoS ONE.
The research could lead to advanced treatments and preventive measures to combat parasitic mosquito bites, said researchers.