Why do mosquitoes love you so much? A study published Wednesday said it could be down to your genes.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found an underlying genetic component to how attractive people are to mosquitoes and said this is likely to be caused by genetic control of people's body odor.
The findings, published in the U.S. journal PLOS ONE, built on previous research where it was shown that attractiveness to insects is based on differences in body odor or diet. However, there is no clear and consistent dietary explanation.
Body odor can be controlled genetically, so the researchers conducted a series of trials using 18 identical and 19 non- identical female twins, where dengue mosquitoes were released into a Y-shaped tube that divided into two sections.
Mosquitoes were allowed to fly down either side toward the odor of their choice, coming from participants' hands, to see which twin they were most attracted to.
They found that identical twin pairs were more similar in attractiveness to mosquitoes than non-identical twin pairs.
The extent to which genes play a part, or the level of heritability, in the trait for being attractive or not to mosquitoes was found to be at 0.83, roughly equivalent to that associated with height and IQ.
The researchers suggested that this pilot study may provide insight into how our relationship with mosquitoes has evolved, and may ultimately aid in the development of better ways to control mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.
"By investigating the genetic mechanism behind attractiveness to biting insects such as mosquitoes we can move closer to using this knowledge for better ways of keeping us safe from bites and the diseases insects can spread through bites," senior author James Logan of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement. "If we understand the genetic basis for variation between individuals, it could be possible to develop bespoke ways to control mosquitoes better, and develop new ways to repel them. In the future we may even be able to take a pill which will enhance the production of natural repellents by the body and ultimately replace skin lotions."