Mosquitos attracted by your microbiota

Do you get bitten by mosquitos? Blame certain compounds produced by your cutaneous flora.

Why do some people attract more mosquitos than others? To find out, researchers studied two species of mosquitos, Anopheles gambiae and An. arabiensis, which are major disease vectors (particularly for malaria).

Although these two mosquitos are attracted by body odors that derive, in part, from volatile organic compounds produced by bacteria of the cutaneous microbiota, they don’t react the same way to the scents. Smells produced by the human skin bacteria attracted the anopheles more than those produced by animal skins, and attracted An. gambiae more than An. arabiensis.

Moreover, some bacteria of the cutaneous microbiota are more likely than others to make skin attractive, with differences depending on the people colonized with them. Corynebacterium minutissimum, which makes up the majority of the human cutaneous microbiota, produces compounds that strongly attract An. gambiae, unlike Pseudomonas aeruginosa. However, A. arabiensis is attracted by all smells equally, regardless of their origin bacteria.

According to the authors of the study, published in Medical and Veterinary Entomology, identifying these compounds may allow us to develop mosquito traps using body odors, to naturally fight the diseases for which they are vectors.

A. O. Busala et al. Variation in host preferences of malaria mosquitoes is mediated by skin bacterial volatiles. Medical and Veterinary Entomology (2017), doi: 10.1111/mve.1224