In a prickly TED-Ed lesson written by Maria Elena De Obaldia and animated by Anton Bogaty, narrator Pen-Pen Chen explains why mosquitos seem to prefer some people and ignore others. It turns out that these “mosquito magnets” can’t help but be attractive.
While carbon dioxide exhalations and body heat consistently signal the presence of warm-blooded animals, human body odor is more distinctive. And everyone hosts different microbial communities on their skin, which contribute to unique body odors that likewise vary from person to person.
This attraction may also have a genetic component.
Researchers reveal that the receptors mosquitoes use to detect acidic compounds are especially important in helping them navigate towards humans. And, indeed, humans with more abundant skin acids prove to be consistently more attractive to mosquitoes. Because it’s such a persistent trait, certain genes may play a role, perhaps by helping determine the skin’s microbial composition.