Mosquito bites might be foretold in genes

Aedes aegypti

Findings from a twin study add to evidence that inherited traits of body odor may make some people more attractive prey to a hungry mosquito, like the one above.

USDA/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Whether a mosquito finds you tasty might be coded in your genes.

Plenty of factors could drive a mosquito’s desire to bite: its prey’s diet, body temperature, pregnancy or even body odor. Genes partially control a person’s unique odor, so researchers used data from 19 sets of female fraternal twins and 18 sets of identical twins to see whether chemicals in a person’s aroma might make them more attractive to Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

When given the option, the bloodsuckers showed a greater difference in preference between fraternal twin odors than those of identical twins. Because the latter share the same genes, being tastier to mosquitoes could be an inherited trait — at least where body odor is concerned, the researchers conclude April 22 in PLOS ONE.

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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