Hah, Ok so first I have to confess that I am a bit off a mozzy (mosquitoe) geek as I have a soft spot for this area of research, for two reasons;
1-My first ever real research project that I designed myself as a undergraduate was on Malaria and mozzy’s
2-Sudan is full of them and has both the species that carry malaria in abundance and they like to bite me, lots, whenever I go home ggggrrrrhhh!
Side note/Trivia: Did you know that mosques (Islamic house of prayer) are called mosques in England instead of Masjid (which is the correct word) because when the English landed in countries which contained Masjid’s and they heard the call to prayer, the soldiers described the sound as the buzzing of mosquitoes, hence the term mosque instead of Masjid.
Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand, due to the above reasons, I am still a member of a number of web journals all about mozzys’ and malaria and it just so happens that only yesterday I read this paper.
Click here if you feel up-to the hard-core science (I hope some of you do 🙂 otherwise play this live ensemble by Seun Kuti feat Manu Dibango whilst I try and break it down.
I always used to say to my dad ” it really is not fair, how come you never get bitten and I always get bitten” and he used to come at me with an African proverb that translates to “My old skin/blood is dry and your young skin/blood is sweet my dear”.LOL
So I looked it up and it turns out he was kinda right. Firstly, I thought a mozzy was just looking for blood, so what does it matter who’s blood it has for dinner, right? I was wrong.
Actually, the mosquito that carries malaria aka Anopheles gambiae, tracks its victims with an acute sense of smell.
Now when I say acute, I really mean it, as the smells they are attracted to come from the billions of tiny bacteria that live on our skin. Skin bacteria gives us all our own “scent” if you will, and we need them as they help convert chemicals on our skin into those that can easily rise into the air.
So here is the answer to your question. We all have different types of bacteria on our skin or different concentrations of a particular type. Therefore, our scent will be different, your scent must be far more attractive than your partners.
Recently, Neils Verhulst et al (2011) discovered that the bacteria on our skin does affect the odds of being bitten by a malarial mosquito and they have even managed to identify which of the different types of skin bacteria are more attractive.This has exciting implications for malaria research.
What can you do?
There are a few things that you can do to make yourself less “attractive” to mozzys
1-We know from past experiments that human sweat becomes more enticing to A.gambiae, therefore a shower before sundown might help.
2-Your diet matters, for example we know that drinking bear can give a attractive odour
3-Cover up as much as possible during the evenings when the mozzy’s come out to play
Hope that helps.