A study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine involving twins has shown that genetics can influence who gets bitten by mosquitoes.
A study conducted by University of Florida (UF) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine involving twins has shown that genetics influence who gets bitten by mosquitoes.
Published in PLOS ONE, the team subjected 18 identical and 19 non-identical female twins to Aedes aegypti (commonly called dengue mosquitoes) that were placed in a Y-shaped apparatus. They determined a mosquito was attracted to a person if they flew 30 cm towards the twin’s hand.
In doing so, the team found that identical twins has more similar rates of “attractiveness” than non-identical twins (r=0.563 versus r=0.287). They also determined that body temperature and what arm was used did not influence the study’s outcome.
However, the investigators discovered the genes that determined their attractiveness to mosquitoes also were found in traits influencing height (0.83) and IQ (0.5-0.8).
Their findings support their previous research, which implicated body odor’s role in attractiveness to other insects. In this study, the authors determined that people who weren’t bitten by the mosquito naturally produce repellents — a trend they also believe is genetically-driven.
“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,” the study’s senior author James Logan, a senior lecturer in medical entomology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said in a news release. “If we understand the genetic basis for variation between individuals it could be possible to develop bespoke ways to control mosquitoes better, and develop new ways to repel them. 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.”