How ‘tasty’ are you?

Editorial August 2, 2019

CURIOSITIES

The editorial team at The Secret Life of Skin.

Have you ever noticed that some people get bitten by mosquitoes more than others? Like us, you may joke that some people are just ‘more tasty’, but in fact this turns out that may be true. Some people are simply more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

Mosquito biting skin

One of these factors affecting our taste-factor is our sweat; a key component of sweat – lactic acid – has been shown to attract mosquitoes. A behavioural study found that lactic acid markedly increased the degree of attractiveness of formerly less attractive human odour samples and they were preferred over the samples which were originally the most attractive[1].

Skin bacteria plays a vital role in our smell – we all sweat but not everyone has body odor. In fact it is due to the release of certain chemicals by bacteria that makes body odor. (For more information on body odor, take a read of our latest blog by Dr Marcus Egert). In addition to lactic acid, a number of studies show that mosquitoes are attracted to certain bacterial scents more than others.

These findings really are break-throughs. The devastating impact of diseases transmitted by mosquitos are well documented. The findings are already linked to new technologies to prevent the spread of diseases like malaria.

One example if  ReVector, a new program from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office.  It intends to diminish the attraction — or even actively repel mosquitoes — by engineering the skin microbiome to temporarily alter chemical production.[2] The technologies are said to lower the incidence of mosquito feeding, therefore reducing the opportunity for transmission.

[1] https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/26/5/523/420128

[2] https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2019-05-03a

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