By Julie Day
Although approximately 99% of us here on the Costa Blanca have been suffering due to the terrible heat and humidity this year, wondering when this unbearable heatwave is going to end, there’s also another group who are suffering just as badly due to an increase in the number of mosquito bites they’ve received this summer – me included.
And for many, a holiday in Spain will be a great way to chill, distress and recharge the batteries. But for others, who aren’t so lucky, it will mean being bit to shreds by what seems like an army of angry blood-sucking critters. So, why are some people more attractive than others to these vicious insects?
Well, a study carried out by scientists and researchers from the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of London, the University of Nottingham and the University of Florida has come up with the answer, which apparently lies in our genes.
These scientists have found a genetic component which is present in the odour that our body gives off that makes us more or less attractive to mosquitoes.
With this knowledge, it should make it easier to find more effective methods to avoid being bitten, as well as protecting us better from some of the diseases associated with mosquito bites in animals and humans.
Based on their investigations, it has been found that mosquitoes are least attracted to those who naturally produce their own form of mosquito repellent through their body. It seems that this is controlled by this genetic streak.
It is this difference in body odour which leads to some being more susceptible to being bit than others. Depending on the species of mosquito or on the geographical location, some of these bites can end up being fatal.
An experiment was carried out on 18 identical female twins and 19 non-identical female twins, with the results showing that the identical twins were much more likely to be bit by the mosquitoes. It was concluded that our genes play an important role when it comes to the insect’s choice of who to attack.
The study also revealed that female mosquitoes prefer the scent of a certain category of people when it comes on deciding who to bite in order to feed themselves off the blood that they require to reproduce. For example, in Africa, the malaria mosquito prefers pregnant women, while people with a greater body mass are also more attractive in other parts of the world.
The main author of the study believes that by having a better understanding of what motivates the mosquito and other biting insects into action, they will be able to discover more effective formulas to protect us from their attacks and repel them much faster.
In the future, he believes it will even be possible to develop a pill that will help us to produce a greater amount of natural body repellent. Until then, however, we will have to make do with avoiding travelling to Africa if pregnant and trying to lose weight as much as possible to reduce our body mass!