The likelihood of being bitten by mosquitoes could be linked to our genes, according to a recent study. Previous papers have suggested that human attractiveness to insects is based on differences in body odor or diet but there has been no clear and consistent dietary explanation.
Body odor can be controlled genetically, so the authors of the new study explored whether this difference may have an underlying genetic component. The scientists conducted a series of trials using identical and non-identical female twins, where dengue mosquitoes were released into a Y-shaped tube that divided into two sections. 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.
The results showed that identical twin pairs were more similar in attractiveness to mosquitoes than non-identical twin pairs. The level of heritability of the trait, or extent to which genes may play a part, was found to be at a similar level (0.83) for mosquito attractiveness as that associated with height (0.8) and IQ (0.5-0.8). The authors suggest that this pilot study may provide insight into how our relationship with mosquitoes has evolved, and may ultimately aid in the development of better ways to control mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit.
Senior author Dr. James Logan said, "By investigating the genetic mechanism behind attractiveness to biting insects such as mosquitoes, we can move closer to using this knowledge to develop better ways of keeping us safe from bites and the diseases insects can spread through bites."
Citation: Fernández-Grandon GM, Gezan SA, Armour JAL, Pickett JA, Logan JG (2015) Heritability of Attractiveness to Mosquitoes. PLoS ONE 10(4):e0122716. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122716