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The soap you use could be attracting mosquitoes, new study finds

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Mosquito bites are an annoyance for many people in the summer, resulting in itchy, puffy skin.

However, in severe cases they can spread diseases and even cause death.

Some people appear to suffer from bites more often than others, with no definitive answer as to why this is.

Now a study has found that the way you smell can affect your likelihood of getting bitten by the insects.

Mosquitoes rely on plant nectar for sugars to sustain their metabolism as well as certain nutrients to be able to produce eggs.

Therefore, humans that smell like those nutrients, combined with a floral fragrance could be in trouble when it comes to mosquito bites.

This prompted research by a team from Virginia Tech in the US, who considered the effect of different smells on mosquito attraction.

They discovered that certain soaps could make people more or less attractive to mosquitoes.

In a university release, co-principal investigator Clément Vinauger explained: “Just by changing soap scents, someone who already attracts mosquitoes at a higher-than-average rate could further amplify or decrease that attraction”

As part of the study, which was published in iScience, four volunteers were monitored.

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The unique natural scent of each participant, washed and unwashed, was analysed.

Soaps used for the washing were brands Dial, Dove, Native, and Simple Truth.

Mr Vinauger said that more than 60 percent of what is smelled after washing comes from soap rather than natural body odours.

“The other aspect is that it’s not simply adding stuff to our body odour, but it’s also replacing some chemicals while eliminating others that are washed away,” he commented.

“So we think there is a lot of chemical interaction between our natural chemicals and soap chemicals.”

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To test the interactions between smells, researchers released mosquitoes in a meshed cage that had two cups containing odour extracts.

They were given a choice – unwashed scents gathered from the individuals or their washed scents.

The scents were taken from a nylon sleeve worn on the forearm with the body in both washed and unwashed states.

These tests were then repeated for the various combinations of scents.

Mr Vinauger said: “This way we can really measure and quantify the effect of the soap in terms of increasing or decreasing the attractiveness of the individual.

“That’s where we found that not all soaps have the same effect on all volunteers.”

It was found that three of the four soaps – all of which had a fruity or floral scent – increased mosquito attractiveness while one decreased.

The only soap that decreased attractiveness was coconut-scented.

“That was very interesting for us because there is other evidence in the literature that elevating certain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil derivatives, could serve as a repellent for mosquitoes and other insects,” Mr Vinauger said.

The team believes that deodorants, laundry detergents and other scented products will also play a role in how attractive a person is to a mosquito.

They hope to expand their research in the future using more participants and soap varieties.

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