TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Do you like to drink beer? Are you pregnant or may become pregnant? You smell delicious, at least to mosquitoes. New data from a study of mosquitoes and their dietary habits says how you smell directly attracts the little pests.
The study, published in Cell.com, said that mosquitoes are more attracted to people who are drunk and women who are pregnant.
“Some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others, but the mechanistic basis of this phenomenon is poorly understood,” the study authors wrote. “We tested mosquito attraction to human skin odor and identified people who are exceptionally attractive or unattractive to mosquitoes.”
The scent hook for the pesky bugs is something called carboxylic acid, which the study said was an attractive smell on human skin that mosquitoes found enticing.
While some mosquito-attraction was hereditary, according to the study, “a given person can become more attractive to mosquitoes in context including pregnancy, malaria parasite infection, and beer consumption.”
The study data did not directly link skin odor to mosquito attraction, with the exact consistency of skin odor to mosquito attraction unclear, the study did find that “humans who are highly attractive to mosquitoes may produce more attractant odors than other people.”
However, the study also said “no single molecule obtained from human skin can be said to be sufficient to explain” how much mosquitoes are attracted to a potential bite target or person.
Still, the study said that “although carboxylic acids are neutral or repellent when presented individually or in combination with each other, they strongly increase mosquito attraction when combined with ammonia and lactic acid.” The study authors said mosquito attraction behavior was more “reliably” able to bring on the mosquitoes attraction from live human hosts and natural odors, rather than using lures or compound chemicals.
Some of the study data was built up from previous scientific work.
A 2002 study also explored the attractiveness of pregnant women to mosquitoes as a target for consuming their blood. While it called the attraction “short-range,” the 2002 study said pregnant women “attracted twice as many” mosquitoes as women who were not.
Another study, from 2010 showed that alcohol consumption was linked to higher prevalence of mosquitoes and who they bit to consume blood.
The results of the study, which looked at the effect on the spread of malaria in areas that alcohol was consumed more often, found that “beer consumption is a risk factor for malaria” due to the effect on how mosquitoes are attracted, though not double the amount of mosquitoes like with pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women.
The study said that as alcohol consumption increased in developing nations, the risk of malaria spreading increased as well, affecting efforts to “manage malaria.”
Authors for the 2022 study’s review of factors which added to mosquito attractiveness said more study would be needed to further explore the links between human skin odor and mosquito attraction.