Science Puzzles Out What Makes Some of Us More Attractive to Mosquitoes
“Science Puzzles Out What Makes Some of Us More Attractive to Mosquitoes ”
“Imagine you’re a mosquito, the feminine variety, and your customary three-day fast is over. Bottom line: You wanna suck blood.
What about that dog? Nah, the mutt’s smell does nothing for you. That kid on the patio? Might be good, but a breeze just stole his scent. Whoa, check out the lady across the street. Now we’re talking.
Weeding the garden on a sultry day, she’s working up a lather — even 75 feet away, an easy sniff. Best of all, she’s not wearing socks. Oh, baby, there’s something special about those stinky feet.
It’s true, scientists say: When it comes to picking food, mosquitoes find some poor souls especially delectable.
“Smell is really everything,” said Laurence Zwiebel, a Vanderbilt University molecular biologist.
Evolution has spawned a diverse population of skeeters, spanning several hundred species and every continent except Antarctica. Some prefer cows. Others like birds or frogs. But two facts are common to all: Only females bite. And highly sensitive olfactory systems — most pronounced in the antenna — are used to sniff out targets long before a skeeter lands.
Science is working vigorously to understand this miraculous smelling system. Short-circuiting mosquitoes’ prime navigational system might prevent millions of malaria deaths each year, as well as cases of West Nile virus, yellow fever and other mosquito-born diseases. It might also bring relief to those unfortunate folks who emit the body-odor blends that make hungry mosquitoes go berserk.”
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