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Malaria Alert: Your genes might be making you a mosquito magnet

posted on 6/16/2016 Facebook Facebook

Have you ever wondered why mosquitoes flock around you all the time than the person sitting beside you? While smell has long been used as an explanation as to why some people become mosquito fodder while others return from outdoors unscathed, a recent paper published in PLoS One journal suggested that it is in fact in your genes. Yes, you heard that right! A person’s likelihood of being bitten by mosquitoes is harbored by his or her DNA. And it appears that these differences may be inherited. 

To make this determination, scientists used 18 pairs of identical twins and 19 pairs of non-identical twins. Upon exposing these individuals with mosquitoes, researchers found that mosquitoes were attracted (or not) to the identical twins in the same way, but didn’t share that attraction or repulsion to non-identical twins. This effect which was calculated at about 68% was found to be as strong as the connection of genes with height (80%) and IQ (50%). 

The researchers hypothesized that it might be related to the major histocompatibility complex— a set of genes that in part determines our personal scent and controls our immune system. But that’s a lot of genes! Therefore in order to pin the MHC down or to further isolate genes within that group, the researchers will need to design bigger studies. 

What does this mean for all of us? Well, according to some media outlets, this disclosure can help us move to better mosquito repellants and keep diseases such as malaria at bay. 

More Reasons Why You’re A Tasty Snack To Those Mosquitoes
Don’t start blaming your genes just yet. Here are more reasons why you may be a mosquito magnet:

1. You Have ‘O’ Blood Group: While you may be able to donate blood to anyone on the planet (thanks to your blood group), you are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes as well. According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, people with blood group ‘O’ attracted more mosquitoes as compared to those with other blood groups (A, B and AB).

2. You’re Pregnant: Pregnant women are twice as likely to become mosquito food as compared to others as reported by a 2004 study published in the Annals tropical medicine and parasitology. 

3. Your Environment: Some researchers argue that the interaction of a person’s genes and their environment is the real reason to blame for their attractiveness to mosquitoes. For example, the bacteria that live on human skin are directly influenced by our genetics, which could be an important reason for attracting or repelling bugs. 

4. You Are Suffering From Malaria: Malaria itself can make people more attractive to mosquitoes, especially when the disease-causing parasite is most contagious.

References: 
1. Fernández-Grandon GM, Gezan SA, Armour JA, Pickett JA, Logan JG. Heritability of attractiveness to mosquitoes. PLoS One. 2015 Apr 22;10(4):e0122716. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122716. eCollection 2015. PubMed PMID: 25901606; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4406498.
2. Shirai Y, Funada H, Seki T, Morohashi M, Kamimura K. Landing preference of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) on human skin among ABO blood groups, secretors or nonsecretors, and ABH antigens. J Med Entomol. 2004 Jul;41(4):796-9. PubMed PMID: 15311477.
3. Himeidan YE, Elbashir MI, Adam I. Attractiveness of pregnant women to the malaria vector, Anopheles arabiensis, in Sudan. Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2004 Sep;98(6):631-3. PubMed PMID: 15324469.
4. Verhulst NO, Qiu YT, Beijleveld H, Maliepaard C, Knights D, Schulz S,Berg-Lyons D, Lauber CL, Verduijn W, Haasnoot GW, Mumm R, Bouwmeester HJ, Claas FH, Dicke M, van Loon JJ, Takken W, Knight R, Smallegange RC. Composition of human skin microbiota affects attractiveness to malaria mosquitoes. PLoS One.2011;6(12):e28991. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028991. Epub 2011 Dec 28. PubMed PMID: 22216154; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3247224.
5. Verhulst NO, Beijleveld H, Qiu YT, Maliepaard C, Verduyn W, Haasnoot GW, Claas FH, Mumm R, Bouwmeester HJ, Takken W, van Loon JJ, Smallegange RC. Relation between HLA genes, human skin volatiles and attractiveness of humans to malaria mosquitoes. Infect Genet Evol. 2013 Aug;18:87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 May 18. PubMed PMID: 23688850.

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