Science may finally have a way to stop pesky mosquitoes from sucking your blood. If a mosquito has ever bitten you, then you know it is the worst — the itching, the scratching and the paranoia.
Scientists at Texas A&M University say that they have been able to trick mosquitoes to not bite humans by recoding the bacteria on our skin that attracts these insects in the first place. Bacteria commonly found on the human skin produces bio-chemicals that communicate signals to mosquitoes, allowing them to track us down. Bacteria are able to communicate with each other in a process called “quorum sensing.” According to the Smithsonian:
“This cell-to-cell communication is used to control or prevent particular behaviors within a community, such as swarming or producing biofilm, like the formation of plaque on our teeth. To start a conversation, bacteria produce compounds that contain specific biochemical messages. The more of these compounds that are produced, the more concentrated the message becomes, until it reaches a threshold that causes a group response. Behaviors are more likely to occur as the message gets ‘louder’—and that makes it easy for other organisms to eavesdrop on the bacterial chatter.”
The staphylococcus epidermidis is one of 1,000 different types of bacteria that are living on human skin right now. Researchers at Texas A&M University found that if they remove the mechanism in the bacteria that “encodes its quorum sensing system,” then mosquitoes can’t “hear” it.
This is good news because this could allow for the elimination of bug poison and spray in the near future. Instead of using possibly harmful chemicals on our skin, we may be able to rely on its bacteria to repel bugs.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, a behavioral ecologist at the university, elaborated on the potential of the research:
“Bacteria are our first line of defense, and we want to encourage their proliferation. However, we may be able to produce natural repellents that will allow us to lie to mosquitoes.”
“We might want to modify the messages that are being released that would tell a mosquito that we are not a good host, instead of developing chemicals that can be harmful to our bacteria on our skin, or to our skin itself.”