The two best words in the English language are "outdoor seating" and summer is obviously the best time to take advantage of them. But nothing can distract from rooftop happy hours or Saturday morning brunch like mosquitos. They're annoying, they're everywhere, and you don't notice them until it's too late—they're all over you. But some scientists believe they may have found a way to keep those pesky vibe-killers from bothering you this summer.
Researchers at Texas A&M University may have found a way to trick mosquitos into not biting us, using the bacteria that lives on our skin.
The bacteria on your skin "talk" to each other by producing compounds that communicate certain biochemical messages. Think of these messages as encrypted, and now, think of mosquitos as hackers—they can intercept these signals with their antennae, like a hacker sliding into your DMs.
Enter Jeffery K. Tomberlin—he believes that we can manipulate the bacteria on our skin so that mosquitos are less likely to detect its messages. This method of repelling mosquitos could even be healthier than bug-sprays.
"We may be able to produce natural repellents that will allow us to lie to mosquitoes," says Tomberlin. "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.”
To test this, his team took a common bacterial species found on human skin—Staphylococcus epidermidis—and deleted the genetic mechanism that allows it to encode its messages. When mosquitos were exposed to blood injected with that bacteria, they were less likely to be attracted to it than blood that had been injected with wild-type bacteria.
Tomberlin's team is a long way to being able to tell you how to do this yourself (could they make it easy for us?) but their study backs up their theory. And that's good for us—the humans. We'll be waiting for that DIY guide when you guys wrap up your research, Tomberlin.
[via Smithsonian Magazine]