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Mosquito Magnet? It’s in Your Genes!

Author Nicholas DeRenzo

howitsdoneIf you’ve ever had the gnawing—or more accurately, puncturing—suspicion that mosquitoes love you and your blood more than any of your friends’, you might be onto something. According to a study published this spring in the journal PLOS One, attractiveness to mosquitoes appears to be tied to genetic markers. To test this hypothesis, James Logan, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and his colleagues asked 18 pairs of identical twins and 19 pairs of fraternal twins to do the unthinkable: stick one hand each into a tube filled with 20 hungry Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and let nature take its course. The results? Identical twins (those with all the same genes) proved equally tasty to the little biters, while fraternal twins (those with different genes) varied in their attractiveness, with one often receiving significantly more or fewer bites than his or her twin. Logan argues that those who don’t get bitten might produce a naturally repellent odor that keeps insects away. Scientists, once they uncover the responsible genes, could use these findings to develop ultra-effective repellents, which could reduce bites and go a long way toward eradicating mosquito-borne diseases. Until then, you just might be hampered with a genetic marker that, well, sucks.

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