You're a mosquito magnet because of how you smell, says study

Your eating or grooming habits won't change that.
Deniz Yildiran
A mosquito drinks blood on a finger
A mosquito drinks blood on a finger


Do you remember that hot summer night when mosquitoes constantly attacked your arms and legs, even the parts of your body that you couldn’t imagine, while your friends barely got one bite attack? Researchers knew there was a reason for that, but they couldn’t figure out why exactly until now.

Researchers from Rockefeller University in New York have now revealed that particular body odors keep the mosquitoes coming to have a bite, or in many cases, more than one.

People with skin that produces high levels of carboxylic acids are the primary choice of mosquitoes to have a feast from, and their attractiveness to mosquitoes doesn’t change over time, irrespective of diet changes and hygiene habits, Scientific American reported.

The findings were published in the journal Cell on October 18, 2022.

There have been different discussions about the deciding factor of mosquitoes; a theory, for example, suggested that the little insects chose people over their blood type. However, there wasn't enough evidence to support the argument, study co-author Leslie Vosshall said.

“The question of why some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others—that’s the question that everybody asks you,” says study co-author Leslie Vosshall. “My mother, my sister, people in the street, my colleagues—everybody wants to know,” she added.

In time, the scientific community almost agreed that body odor attracts mosquitoes. However, they haven't been able to confirm what specific fragrances the mosquitoes were into.

Toward the conclusion

Voshall and her colleagues prepared for a small-scale study including 64 participants to answer the question. Participants wore nylon stockings on their arms, and after six hours of collecting scents, they removed the nylons.

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Then the nylons of two participants were cut into pieces and placed into a container where the swarms of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes flew around. Different samples were collected when needed, and the study took several months. When the tournament was over, it was apparent that the mosquitoes had their favorites. Especially, Subject 33 was the biggest magnet with an attractiveness score “over 100 times greater” compared to the least favorable subjects 19 and 28.

The common pattern the most interesting subjects had was the greater levels of carboxylic acids found on their skin, while the least attractive ones had really fewer amounts.

“This property of being a mosquito magnet sticks with you for your whole life—which is either good news or bad news, depending on who you are,” Vosshall said.

Manipulating the odors of people caused by bacteria could lead to developing probiotic skin creams that could help reduce the levels of certain byproducts, hence less attractive people to mosquitoes, Voshall said.

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