Study Finds that Mosquitoes Are Attracted by Some Soap Scents and Repelled By Others!

Study Finds that Mosquitoes Are Attracted by Some Soap Scents and Repelled By Others!
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Mosquitoes and the people they prey on appear to have a taste for high-quality soap.

In a new study published this week, researchers discovered that female mosquitos are attracted to some types of soap that people often use and repulsed by others, sometimes in surprising ways.

The good news is that we could someday be able to improve insect repellents thanks to such findings.

Due to the numerous pathogens they may carry, mosquitoes are the deadliest animal to us humans.

Mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria are thought to be responsible for up to a million fatalities each year.

However, it has long been evident that these pests do not have equal access to resources.

Clément Vinauger, a biochemist and geneticist and the study’s lead author, estimates that only 20 percent of potential human hosts account for around 80 percent of the transmission of mosquito borne diseases in a given location.

Vinauger told Gizmodo that “In this context, it’s critical to understand what makes mosquitoes bite some human hosts more than others.”

Our body odor contains compounds that are attractive to mosquitoes that feed on humans, according to some research.

However, less research has been done on how our own scents may influence mosquito attractiveness.

Female mosquitoes are notorious for feeding on animal blood, yet they also consume nectar, just like male mosquitoes do.

Because of this, it is likely that certain scents associated with soap may lead them to alter their eating patterns.

Vinauger went on to explain that “In particular, we like to scent our soaps containing chemicals typically associated with the scent of flowers and plants. But mosquitoes also use plant emitted volatiles to find them and obtain sugar from their nectar. We theorize that adding these chemicals to body odor would affect their attraction, in certain ways. But this had to be tested experimentally.”

Four people were enlisted by the team to participate in their tests.

They started by determining each person’s own scent features.

Then they instructed them to wash their hands using Dial, Dove, Native, and Simple Truth brand

soaps.

The researchers then exposed female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are prolific disease carriers, to the materials used by the volunteers, whether they had been cleaned or not.

Though to various degrees among the brands and participants, the team generally discovered distinct changes in mosquito preferences both before and after soaping up.

“Our main results were that, sure enough, applying soap to our skin changes the way we smell drastically, in particular by adding a lot of plant emitted chemicals to the composition of our body odor. Our work also revealed the importance of interactions between the specific soap chemicals and body odor of each individual in determining whether someone would become more or less of a target to mosquitoes after applying soap to their skin,” said Vinauger.

For instance, after using Dove and Simple Truth soap on certain volunteers, the mosquitoes got more drawn to their aroma, but Native brand soap continually served as a mosquito repellent.

The scientists also discovered possible compounds in these soaps that appeared to be most in charge of either luring or driving away the bugs.

The substance that seemed to repel mosquitoes the best among these contenders was one with a coconut aroma.

Their research was released in the iScience journal earlier this week.

Since this is just one study with a limited sample size, it is best to proceed with caution until further research has been done to replicate its findings.

Additionally, the study neglected to examine another crucial factor in mosquito attraction: the carbon dioxide that humans exhale.

However, the group intends to get financing for larger trials that can examine a greater variety of soaps and participants while addressing other crucial issues, such as the normal duration of any soap related benefit.

If this study proceeds as planned, it may eventually result in the creation of mosquito-proof soaps or other significant uses.

Vinauger concluded that “Research in this field could indeed lead to informing the cosmetic industry on certain combinations of chemicals that lead to soaps still pleasant to our nose, but that also repel mosquitoes. Understanding the chemical rules behind these effects might also inform the design of baits to lure mosquitoes and trap them for control purposes.”


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Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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