Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Beer drinkers, pregnant women more vulnerable to mosquito bites

By: Chioma Umeha

A new study has shown why some people are mosquito magnets. Up to 20 percent of people across the world are highly attractive to mosquitoes, the study said. Entomology professor, Dr. Phil Koehler, University of Florida said: “Both your metabolism and your unique body chemistry—which is as distinctive as a fingerprint—play an important role in determining whether or not you are a mosquito magnet. Also, there is evidence that your degree of attractiveness to mosquitoes can change over time.” 

Are you one of those who often feel as if every mosquito in a 50-mile radius has you locked in its sights, while your friends are rarely bitten? You could be right. So, there may be scientific reasons of being bitten by a mosquito, while everyone else says they are fine. Scientists have discovered some surprising reasons. “Both your metabolism and your unique body chemistry—which is as distinctive as a fingerprint—play an important role in determining whether or not you are a mosquito magnet,” says University of Florida entomology professor Dr. Phil Koehler. “Also, there is evidence that your degree of attractiveness to mosquitoes can change over time.” 

Mosquito Bites
Here are some intriguing discoveries about why some people are particularly tasty targets for the tiny vampires: Like vampires, they prefer dark clothes Dark-colour clothing can increase your risk of falling victim to the little bloodsuckers, compared to lighter-colour garments, says Dr. Koehler. In one study comparing the appeal of various hues to mosquitoes, the researchers reported the following results:  black (most attractive); red (very attractive); grey and blue (neutral); khaki, green, light khaki, and yellow (less attractive). Mosquitoes prefer blood type O In their quest for a meal, mosquitoes are nearly twice more likely to land on people with type O blood than those with type A, according to a Japanese study.  Indeed, the biting pests consider type 0 more delectable than any other blood type, the researchers reported. Most people secrete substances that allow mosquitoes to identify blood type before they bite. 

Beer drinkers should be cautious Swigging just one bottle of beer can significantly boost your risk of being bitten, according to a study published in Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. The researchers reported that, “Mosquito landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion.” At moonlight Mosquitoes are 500 times more active when the moon is full, reports the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). Overall, the highest risk times for mosquito bites are dusk and dawn, with the females of some species migrating up to 40 miles in pursuit of a meal. (Male mosquitoes don’t bite.) Dirty socks, feet The pungent aroma of dirty feet is apparently irresistible to mosquitoes, as a brave scientist, Bart Knols, discovered when he sat in a laboratory in his underwear to find out which parts of the body the pests are most likely to target. 

He found that 75 per cent of the bugs homed in on his feet, but after he washed them with deodorant soap, the mosquitoes bit randomly. His team also reported that a stinky cheese, such as Limburger—which has the same odoriferous compound responsible for foot odor—also draws mosquitoes. Why mosquitoes identifies expectant mothers Expectant mothers get bitten about twice as often as women who are not pregnant, increasing their risk for bug-borne diseases, according to a study conducted in Gambia. The researchers hypothesized that since women in the later stages of pregnancy exhale 21 per cent more volume, mosquitoes were drawn in by the moisture and carbon dioxide in their breath.
They also found that pregnant women’s abdomens are nearly one degree warmer, which may cause more volatile substances—released in sweat and attractive to mosquitoes—to be present on their skin. Not only do several other studies have similar findings, said Dr. Koehler, but “there is also evidence that women are more attractive to mosquitoes during certain phases of the ovulation cycle.” Studies have mixed results as to whether men or women are more likely to get bitten, he adds. Why running cannot help you Both the carbon dioxide we exhale and substances in sweat, such as lactic acid, help mosquitoes home in on their prey.  “You are more likely to be bitten if you’re running or exercising than when you are at rest, since you are breathing harder and sweating more.” In fact, physical activity ups risk for bites by as much as 50 percent, according to AMCA.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 18,  2013.

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