When a mosquito bites humans, it usually leaves a round, puffy bump that is itchy. It is a sign that a female mosquito has taken a liking to the skin and decided to spread diseases, such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya, Rift Valley fever, and malaria.
Malaria carries the most risk accounting for 229 million cases, with Africa leading in malaria deaths of about 67% worldwide. Vector control strategies that aim to prevent these diseases are not enough to control them.
In finding the solution, researchers from the University of Pretoria seek to answer why do mosquitoes prefer certain individuals above other people.
News website Modern Ghana reported that the researchers investigated the difference of the chemicals on the skin surface on what could attract mosquitoes.
They were able to identify two possible inquiries: what compounds are closely associated with mosquito bites, and what compounds are related to individuals being unattractive to mosquitoes that could be used in developing mosquito repellants.
What Attracts Mosquitoes to Some People?
According to Healthline, there are a variety of factors that attracts a mosquito to certain people. This includes carbon dioxide, body odor, colors, heat and water vapor, learning, alcohol, and pregnancy.
But the new study of the researchers focuses on the chemicals found on the human skin surface. Only female mosquitoes bite humans for the blood that they need for their eggs to develop.
They find hosts through a series of behavioral steps. The first step is to look for a host that is usually done by cues like carbon dioxide or visual cues.
Female mosquitoes use heat and moisture cues near the host, and finally, skin odor that influences their landing and biting site selection. Chemicals on the skin are used for communications within species are called semiochemicals, which is likely the reason why mosquitoes prefer certain individuals.
Semiochemicals Found On Skin Surface That Attracts Mosquitoes
According to The Conversation, researchers found over 500 skin compounds identified in studies and many remain unknown.
Sophisticated techniques and technology are now helping to identify semiochemicals and potential blends of these chemicals that attract mosquitoes, Some might even work as mosquito repellants.
Researchers developed a silicone rubber sampler that could be worn as a bracelet or an anklet to sample the skin of 20 individuals. Using high-tech equipment, the identified 69 volatile and semi-volatile compounds contribute to differences in their skin chemical profiles.
Among these, 31 compounds were previously unknown so they set up an investigation and found that 20 compounds boost mosquito bites.
Improving Malaria Vector Control Strategies
Researchers believe that the compounds they were able to identify would be useful in the development of future malaria vector control strategies that will act as attractants or repellants.
More studies will be needed to test them on female mosquitoes, particularly non-invasive skin sampling techniques that research groups have used for vector control applications and human health screenings.
Check out more news and information on Mosquitoes in Science Times.