Here’s a reason to cheer if you’re one of those people plagued by mosquitoes. Scientists have discovered the chances of being bitten are down to genetic factors and a cure could be on its way.
But immediate celebrations should be muted as it could be several years until a pill is discovered which could finally ease the summer torment of those with ‘tasty blood’, the Telegraph reports.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say whether mosquitoes are likely to feast on you comes down to a gene variant which controls body odour. Some people have genes which provide a natural defence against the insects while others are not so lucky.
That means if you are someone who regularly spends summer being covered in itchy, red lumps regardless of how much repellent or citronella oil you use, you can at least blame your parents.
But now they have found what they believe to be the factor in what attracts mosquitoes, it means scientists are one step closer to finding a preventative method that actually works.
“By investigating the genetic mechanism behind attractiveness to biting insects such as mosquitoes we can move closer to using this knowledge for better ways of keeping us safe from bites and the diseases insects can spread through bites,” said Dr James Logan, Senior Lecturer in Medical Entomology.
“If we understand the genetic basis for variation between individuals it could be possible to develop bespoke ways to control mosquitoes better, and develop new ways to repel them.
“In the future we may even be able to take a pill which will enhance the production of natural repellents by the body and ultimately replace skin lotions.”
The team conducted a series of trials using 18 identical and 19 non-identical sets of female twins.
Each set of twins each put one hand into a y-shaped tube which dengue mosquito were released into and allowed to fly down either side towards whichever hands they preferred.
Researchers found the insects would bite none, or bother of the identical twins but the results were mixed for the non-identical couples.
While it is good news for those in Western Europe, it will be even better for people living in countries where mosquito carry the deadly malaria virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate at least a million people each year die from the disease, with some estimates putting it as high as 2.7 million. Around 90 per cent of the deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa with 70 per cent children under five.