By Allysandra B. Merlin

PHOTO: Amazon News

What attracts mosquitoes? Apparently, they are captivated by the scent of the infections they themselves cause.

A newly published report from the journal Cell showed that the Zika or dengue viruses' flowery scent makes mice and humans delectable for mosquitoes, as the infection alters the scent of the infected species.

According to the study, when infected with dengue or Zika virus, humans and certain mice species generate a flowery, orange-scented chemical that attracts mosquitoes.

Acetophenone, which is produced by bacteria and smells like orange blossom to humans, could be the alluring chemical. Mice infected with the dengue or Zika viruses emit around ten times more acetophenone and hence attract ten times more mosquitoes than uninfected animals. Similarly, people afflicted with dengue produce more of the aforementioned substance than healthy individuals.

Infections with the aforementioned virus promote the formation of skin-habiting bacteria, which causes the bloodsucking Aedes aegypti mosquitos to feed, and they may then transmit the viruses to a new host.

Other studies have revealed that other mosquitoes prefer to feed on animals carrying the malaria parasite (Sn: 2/9/7), which is currently the basis of the case being studied by Gong Cheng, a microbiologist at Tsinghua University. However, it is questionable whether the prior studies' discoveries were accurate or, at the very least, applicable to other viruses such as Dengue or Zika.

According to researchers, Bacillus bacteria in mice may be the source of the chemical. Infection prevents mice from manufacturing an antibacterial protein called RELMα, allowing acetophenone-emitting microorganisms to thrive. Cheng and his colleagues collected odor samples from infected people's armpits, which when smeared on filter paper affixed to a volunteer's palm, acted as a potent mosquito attractor.

Nonetheless, the team discovered that a component of various acne medicines restores RELMα in mice. Infected animals administered isotretinoin, a Vitamin A derivative, create less acetophenone and become less attractive to mosquitoes. He and his colleagues intend to put the method to the test in Malaysia, which has a high number of dengue infections.

As determined by Cheng, giving isotretinoin to humans could help limit virus transmission by shielding the affected from bloodsucking insects.