No longer just a joke - our blood is to blame for mosquito bites | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 22.04.2015
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No longer just a joke - our blood is to blame for mosquito bites

They are back: when temperatures rise, mosquitos fan out in search of blood. Now scientists have found proof that our genes are to blame for how often we are stung.

"You just have sweet blood!" People who are regularly plagued by mosquito bites hear this clichéd explanation all too often - and then brush it off with a faint smile and the inner wish to let the person who told it know just how weak their humor - and perhaps intelligence - is.

However, our genes have a larger influence on how often we are stung by mosquitoes than we may have thought, scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have found.

From tests on identical and fraternal twins (the latter have differing genes, while identical twins have the same genetic dataset), the researchers found a clear corollation when it comes to how mosquitos chose their victims: With the identical twins, they distributed their bites equally. But with the fraternal twins, they had the same favorite.

Symbolbild Tropenkrankheiten Malaria Duengefieber & Co

Mosquitoes transmit life-threatening illnesses like malaria or dengue.

The study, published in Nature, has a serious background. Diseases spread by mosquitoes are on the rise all over the world: Malaria, Dengue, Yellow Fever - all of which are potentially life threatening. On the basis of their findings, the British scientists hope to develop better mosquito repellants that prevent infection. People with severe allergies might profit from them as well.

Scientists agree that mosquitoes choose their victims based on body odor. Pregnant women and people with higher body temperatures are more attractive to the pesty insects, according to earlier studies.

The new study claims: Your attraction to mosquitos is just as heriditary as your height or intelligence.

Scientists have yet to figure out which exact part of our chromosomes determines how much mosquitoes will like us And do mosquitoes really think our blood has a sweet taste? Who knows.

And by the way: old household remedies like eating raw garlic and drinking beer do not help against the tiny bloodsuckers, previous studies have shown. Using that method, though, your chances increase that people won't get close enough to make stupid comments.

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