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Are you a mosquito target? Your genes may be to blame

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 15:12:17-04

Do you feel like you're a constant target for mosquitoes? Well, your genes may be the reason behind it.

"All mosquitoes are attracted to CO2 and heat, and they use those to locate their hosts from a long ways away," said U of A Entomology professor Michael Riehle.
And all humans produce carbon dioxide and heat, but people who are heavier and those who have just exercised produce more carbon dioxide, so they're much more likely to get bitten. Sweat also attracts mosquitoes, so much so that sweat particles are often used in mosquito traps.
And it's not just the smell of sweat that makes you more of a target. If you have smelly feet, U of A professor Michael Riehle says that makes you a prime buffet for mosquitoes.
"They're attracted to limburger cheese," said Riehle. "And it ends up that the bacteria that gives it the cheesy foot odor is the same that's on people's feet, and so the mosquitoes have honed in on that to target your feet where they are less likely to get slapped and killed."
Researchers say on top of these factors, some people just produce certain scents that mosquitos are attracted to. "It's basically your genetic makeup and perhaps what you've eaten," said Riehle.
According to some studies, drinking beer can make you smell more attractive to one type of mosquito. Other studies found: people with type "O" blood were twice as likely to get bitten than people with type "A" Blood.
Some people naturally produce odors that are not attractive to the insects, but scientists are still trying to pin down exactly what those compounds are.
One way to make yourself unattractive to mosquitoes artificially: wear perfume or cologne. "It would act like more of a repellant because it's an odor they're not used to," said Riehle.
So what can you do if you're one of those people that mosquitoes find particularly tasty? 
  • Get sweat off your body as quickly as possible. 
  • If going outdoors, wear a repellent with Deet in it.
  • Put repellant on your skin and your clothing because mosquitoes can bite through fabric.