Have you ever wondered why mosquitos bite some people and not others? A 17-year-old high school student from Davis has the answer and her research was published in a scientific journal.
Helena Leal says she was always a victim of mosquito attacks and wanted to know why.
“I researched on Google and found that no one really had any answers."
Helena's dad, Walter Leal is Bio Chemistry Professor at UC Davis. She got him involved.
"I was like dad you should research this! At the time he was busy but he said 'I will do it if you do it with me,'" said Helena.
Helena spent her entire summer vacation researching with her dad and 2 other researchers. The hard work payed off and now Helena knows why mosquitos favor her over others.
“The human skin contains a lot of different compounds. Mosquitoes are attracted to certain ratios of the compounds," Helena explained.
The compounds are kind of like smells in the skin. Don't jump to conclusions. Mosquitos aren't attracted to stinky people. The study found that humans are born with skin that gives off distinctive smells that mosquitoes pick up.
To find out what skin attracts mosquitos the team collected samples dozens of people then analyzed them. They found out that skin smells are made up of a mixture of 3 compounds. Everyone is born with a different mixture.
To find out what skin smells mosquitos like, they put the bugs in a special smell container. When the mosquitos enter, two different human skin smells enter tubes and they record what smell the mosquitos go to.
“It's a blind test. We let the mosquitos choose,” said Helena.
The research narrowed down the smells that mosquitos like but unfortunately that's all the study found. This is a base test. Someday it may help other scientists make better mosquito repellent.