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Why Mosquitoes Target Some People More Than Others

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – With 82 cases of dengue reported in Puerto Vallarta this year, preventing mosquito bites is a priority during the spring and summer months. Especially for those who seem to attract more mosquitoes than others. But why do they bite some people more than others?

A new study reveals that people who are most attractive to mosquitoes produce a lot of certain chemicals on their skin that are linked to smell. Unfortunately for these “mosquito magnets,” mosquitoes tend to stick with their favorites over time.

Experts say that mosquitoes show preferences when it comes to blood-sucking. About 20 percent of people are particularly appealing to mosquitoes and get bitten more often. Although researchers haven’t pinpointed exactly what makes human flesh ideal for mosquitoes, they do know that genetics account for 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.

Certain elements of our body chemistry can make us more attractive to mosquitoes. People with high levels of steroids or cholesterol on their skin attract mosquitoes, as do those who produce excess amounts of certain acids like uric acid. These substances trigger mosquitoes’ sense of smell, drawing them to their victims.

The attraction starts long before mosquitoes land. They can smell potential targets from up to 75 feet away. People who emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, such as adults, pregnant women, and smokers, are more likely to get bitten.

The types and amounts of bacteria on human skin also affect our attractiveness to mosquitoes. Studies have shown that having large amounts of certain types of bacteria can make skin more appealing, while a greater diversity of bacteria seems to make skin less attractive. This might explain why mosquitoes often bite our ankles and feet, where bacteria colonies are more robust.

Movement and heat also attract mosquitoes. Lactic acid from exercise, acetone from breath, and estradiol, a breakdown product of estrogen, can lure mosquitoes. Body temperature also plays a role, with higher temperatures being more attractive.

Drinking alcohol also increases the likelihood of getting bitten by a mosquito. Alcohol raises body temperature and increases the amount of ethanol in sweat, both of which attract mosquitoes.

In addition to scent, mosquitoes use vision to locate humans. Wearing dark colors like black, dark blue, or red can make you easier to find. To reduce the risk of getting bitten, it is better to wear lighter colors.

Mosquitoes have been around for 170 million years and are not going away anytime soon. However, understanding what attracts them can help minimize their impact.

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