Mosquitoes don’t bite people indiscriminately. Mosquito biting preference is a product of its host seeking behavior which in turn depends on the odor/VOCs () it detects in its vicinity ( ).
- For example, a 2014 study found a tight link between the expression and ligand sensitivity of the AaegOr4 by domestic mosquitoes and their preference for human odor ( ).
- Not surprising then that a recent study found deodorants could repel mosquitoes ( ). Specifically, the deodorant compound isopropyl tetradecanoate was found to inhibit landings of the malaria mosquito Anopheles coluzzi in a repellent bioassay.
Host Skin Microbiota Profile Influences Attractiveness to Mosquitoes
Human odor/VOC is largely a product of skin-residentand it turns out mosquitoes are attracted to specific volatiles produced by specific bacterial species (see below from 4).
A small study on 48 human volunteers found that the African malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto found individuals with more abundant but less diverse skin bacterial profiles much more attractive compared to those they found poorly attractive ().
Genetics of Human Odor & Heritability of Attractiveness to Mosquitoes
Attractiveness to mosquitoes is heritable since a twin study found skin volatiles from identical twins were much more highly correlated for mosquito attractiveness compared to non-identical twins ().
Studies have for long linked the human odor profile to HLA () ( , , ). A small study on 48 human volunteers found those with the HLA gene Cw*07 were more attractive to the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae Giles sensu stricto ( ). HLA is integral to immune function which in turn clearly helps select an individual’s microbiota composition, though how this is accomplished is still an intensive area of contemporary cutting-edge research.
While human odor is largely the product of human genetics (HLA) and ecology (skin microbiota), it’s also influenced by diet, grooming habits and health status. Studies such as the deodorant study () suggest that innate mosquito preference for a particular individual could at least be somewhat mitigated if not thwarted outright.
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