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Mosquito Magnets! Ever wondered why mosquitoes bite you but not your friends?

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 19 October 2022, 18:37 IST

Have you ever wondered why mosquitos buzz around you but not your friends? When you're out in the open with your friends, these fly-like creatures only attack you with pinching bites to suck your blood.

Well according to new research you are the culprit here. Mosquitoes are attracted to a unique smell emanating from our bodies. The study rubbishes age-old myths that blame blood sugar level or blood type. 

Interestingly, these 'micro vampires’ are attracted to a unique smell created by fatty acids emanating from our skins. The findings of the new study were published in the journal Cell.

According to the three-year-long study, mosquitoes are highly attracted to people with higher levels of carboxylic acids on their skin.

“There’s a very, very strong association between having large quantities of these fatty acids on your skin and being a mosquito magnet," says Leslie Vosshall, head of Rockefeller’s Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior.

The participants were asked to wear nylon stockings over their forearms for six hours a day for several days. The nylons were tested against each other in all possible combinations over the next few years by the researchers.

They used a two-choice olfactometer consisting of a plexiglass chamber divided into two tubes, each ending in a box that held a stocking and placed Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes (responsible for Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya) in the main chamber. The researchers observed that the mosquitoes flew towards one nylon or the other.

"By far the most compelling target for Aedes aegypti was Subject 33, who was four times more attractive to the mosquitoes than the next most-attractive study participant, and an astonishing 100 times more appealing than the least attractive, Subject 19," Rockefeller University’s release said.

The researchers used chemical analysis techniques to identify 50 molecular compounds of the high-attracting participants. They found that mosquito magnets produced high levels of carboxylic acids than the less-attractive participants.

Carboxylic acids, or "greasy molecules," are part of the skin's natural moisturising layer and are produced in varying amounts by individuals. The healthy bacteria that live on our skin consume these acids and contribute to the odour profile of our skin. So from now don’t blame your luck it is your unique smell.

First published: 19 October 2022, 18:37 IST