Apr 23, 2015 11:56 PM EDT
Have you thought for some time now that mosquitoes seem to be attracted to you over everyone else? According to a new study, you may be right and your genes could actually tell you if mosquitoes prefer your blood over someone else's.
In experiments performed on both identical and fraternal twins, a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine discovered that genes influence whether a person's body attracts or repels mosquitoes. People who seem less attractive to the insects actually produce natural repellents, which seem to be controlled by genetics, the researchers said.
The findings were built on previous research which showed that attractiveness to insects is based on differences in body odor or diet. However, the study failed to clarify a consistent dietary explanation.
"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," said senior author James Logan in a school news release. Logan is a senior lecturer in medical entomology.
"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," he added.
For the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the team looked at 18 identical and 19 fraternal female twins. 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.
Researchers found that the identical pairs were more similar to each other in their appeal to mosquitoes than the fraternal pairs. Researchers believe this is due to the fact that identical twins are more similar to each other genetically than fraternal twins.
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.
According to the researchers, our genes seem to influence whether or not a person's body odor attracts or repels mosquitos in a way that is very similar to that of our genes' effect on height and IQ.
Researchers also believe that this pilot study may provide insight into how our relationship with the mosquito has evolved over time, and they hope that it will aid in the development of improved methods of controlling mosquitos and, thus, the diseases that they can carry and transmit.
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