Scientists find a genetic clue to why mosquitoes prefer some people more than others.

Are you a mosquito magnet?

Do mosquitoes prefer brunettes? Are they attracted to younger people with smelly feet, who wear perfume, or who eat stinky cheese?

Anyone truly susceptible to mosquitoes knows — these are urban myths.

Some of us get bit more. We just do.


Mosquitoes use their sense of smell to find and then choose among us. Our different body chemistries as well as how much CO2 we exude (aka, heavy breathing) play a role in mosquito preference.

But it turns out that you can inherit being a mosquito magnet. A study compared the bite-ability of different sets of twins — 18 identical and 19 nonidentical. (The identical twins share the same DNA because they formed from the same sperm and egg.) The researchers designed a Y-shaped cylinder that gave the mosquitoes a choice between a hand of each person in different sets of twins.

The researchers found that if one twin in an identical twin set was a skeeter magnet, it was far likelier that her twin would be too.

So there's a genetic basis to that deep attraction mosquitoes have for some people.

The lead author on the paper, Dr. James Logan from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, "In the future we may even be able to take a pill which will enhance the production of natural repellents by the body." Because mosquitoes transmit diseases, like dengue fever, malaria, and West Nile virus, finding a way to protect our bodies from mosquito bites is more than a matter of convenience.

In the meantime, don't worry about stinky feet or stinky cheese. The reason why mosquitoes like you better may be something you were born with.

Heroes