[Image courtesy http://www.rosslab.neurobio.pitt.edu/mbi/]
I was doing some editing on a new edition of my textbook and I came across this story that I'm using in an insight box. I thought I'd share it with you during these dog days of summer.
Has this ever happened to you? You spend the weekend camping or you go for a hike, and you come back covered in mosquito bites, but your friends remain relatively unscathed? Did you forget to pack your insect repellant, or do mosquitoes love you? According to research conducted at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, some people may be more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Nels Verhulst and his team of researchers studied the Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto mosquito that is one of the main vectors for malaria. These mosquitoes are able to locate their host through physical cues such as heat and moisture and chemical cues given off as scent from the skin.
Human sweat is odorless, so why do we stink when we sweat? Blame the bacteria. The bacteria on our skin metabolize our sweaty secretions and give off volatile compounds that cause body odor. Each individual has a distinctive odor based on the type and number of bacteria living on their skin.
"It's not me, it's my bacteria, baby."
[Image courtesy www.curesweatyarmpits.blogspot.com]
Verhulst and his group studied the skin bacteria of 48 men and were able to correlate the microbial community to their attractiveness to mosquitoes. They found that individuals with a diverse population of microbes on their skin were less attractive to mosquitoes than those that had fewer species of bacteria in their skin flora. Specifically, they found that individuals that were populated with Pseudomonas and Variovorax were less attractive to mosquitoes. Individuals that harbored Leptotrichia, Delftia, and Actinobacteria were more likely to get bitten. More bacteria, especially bacteria of the right type, equals fewer mosquito bites! So, the next time you go camping, make sure to pack DEET and maybe throw in a little Pseudomonas and Variovorax to avoid the bite.
mosquitoes, new edition preview, skin bacteria, sweat