Thursday, June 23, 2005

ENV: Mosquitoes & Bodies

The Claim:
Mosquitoes Attack Some People More Than Others
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR, June 21, 2005, The New York Times

They're the unwanted guests that return every summer. They show up in droves, descending to feast on limbs and provoke fits of swatting and spraying. Mosquitoes will attack anything with a pulse, but why is it that some people seem more likely to become a target than others?

Female mosquitoes - the only ones that bite - are attracted to body heat and chemicals in sweat like lactic acid. But earlier this year, scientists at Rothamsted Research in England found that bite-resistant people also produce about a dozen compounds that either prevent mosquitoes from detecting them or drive them away.

Why some people have this built-in shield is unclear. And despite the old wives' tales, there is no scientific evidence that those who lack it can ward off pests simply by eating garlic, bananas or any other food.

Avoiding perfumes and using repellents made with DEET can make a difference. In 2002, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that sprays with even small amounts of the chemical protected wearers up to five hours, while special wristbands and sprays made with citronella lasted only minutes.

Some people produce natural chemicals that protect them from mosquitoes.


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