How to make humans repulsive to mosquitoes? Send the right message

a mosquito on human skin

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A&M entomologists may have found a way to make humans less appetizing to mosquitoes by disrupting communication between bacteria.

The researchers are learning to manipulate “quorum sensing,” a system that allows bacterial to communicate and to control processes such as swarming or breeding..

The team is led by Jeff Tomberlin, an associate professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Bacteria produce compounds that contain specific biochemical messages, he said. The more these compounds are produced, the more concentrated the chemical message becomes. At high concentrations, the message creates a group response, thus creating a behavior.

When it comes to humans, mosquitoes are influenced by several factors, including exhalation, body temperature and body odor – including odors associated with microbes found on the skin.

If the entomologists identify the code that signals unattractiveness, Tomberlin said, they could use that code to repel mosquitoes.

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