Why Some People Are Mosquito Magnets—Skin-Derived Carboxylic Acids Are Key

Aedes aegypti

It’s impossible to hide from a female mosquito—she will hunt down any member of the human species by tracking our CO2 exhalations, body heat, and body odor. But some of us are distinct “mosquito magnets” who get more than our fair share of bites. Blood type, blood sugar level, consuming garlic or bananas, being a woman, and being a child are all popular theories for why someone might be a preferred snack. Yet for most of them, there is little credible data, says Leslie Vosshall, PhD, head of Rockefeller Univeristy’s Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior. This is why Dr. Vosshall and Maria Elena De Obaldia, PhD, a former postdoc in her lab, set out to explore the leading theory to explain varying mosquito appeal: individual odor variations connected to skin microbiota. They recently demonstrated through a study that fatty acids emanating from the skin may create a heady perfume that mosquitoes can’t resist. They published their results on October 27, 2022 in Cell. The open-access article is titled “Differential Mosquito Attraction to Humans Is Associated with Skin-Derived Carboxylic Acid Levels.”

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