Why do mosquitoes target some people more than others?
It feels nearly impossible to get away from mosquitoes and their viciousness these days. It is like there is a swarm of them waiting around a corner to ambush us or ruin a peaceful night's sleep with their excruciatingly annoying buzzing. Yet some of us are luckier than others and face these attacks less frequently.
This isn't just a mere observation. Recently, research conducted by Rockefeller University suggests that some people are more likely than others to be bitten by mosquitoes.
Only female mosquitoes bite humans and the way they find their way to us is through scent tracking. The three things that cue our presence to mosquitoes are our carbon dioxide exhalation, body temperature, and body odour. It is primarily the combination of these 3 factors in correct ratios that determine an individual's desirability to mosquitoes.
When speaking of body odour, there are distinct fragrances that all human beings give off. The ones picked up by mosquitoes are the ones that are detectable on the surface of our skin. The human skin has numerous microorganisms that reside on it. These microorganisms, in addition to sweat secreted by our bodies, give off a distinct scent. Certain scents are more likely to attract mosquitoes than others.
At least 20 percent of the population is more susceptible to mosquito attacks. If you suspect you might be a part of this population, body heat is another factor worth evaluating. It is already well-known that these cold-blooded insects are suckers for a warm climate. They thrive in moist, hot places and breed incessantly when these atmospheric conditions are met. In this case, sometimes after exercise, our body's internal temperature can spike which can cause the body to radiate a lot of heat. This can signal the mosquitoes to our location and make it easier for them to find us.
Our clothing can also be an issue sometimes. If you have ever noticed that mosquitoes seem to turn to you more frequently when you are wearing darker clothes, it's because you have made yourself more visible to them and hence easier to target.
But perhaps the most fascinating bit of research is the discovery that mosquitoes have preferred blood groups. Certain species of mosquitoes enjoy feeding on humans with certain blood groups more than others. Researchers have found that the species of mosquito responsible for diseases such as Chikungunya virus and dengue virus prefer the O type blood whereas AB type blood is sought out more frequently by mosquito species that cause malaria.
In order to protect ourselves we should opt for mosquito repellent sprays on the body and when we are indoors, we should be wary of potential mosquito breeding spots that need to be sterilised.
Since this area of research is relatively new, there is a lot left to discover about all the variables that play a role in making some of us more attractive to mosquitoes than others. However, the information we currently have at hand should not be deemed insignificant or trivial, especially considering the recent rise in mosquito-borne diseases.
1. Very Well Health (October 2022). 7 Reasons Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others.
2. Rockefeller University (October, 2022). Why some people are mosquito magnets.