Scientists discovered how to make human skin less attractive to mosquitoes.
According to Smithsonian.com, the billions of bacteria living in human skin communicate with one another through what is known as quorum sensing.
This system allows bacteria to work together in tasks such as creating plaque on teeth.
Texas A&M behavioral ecologist Jeffery K. Tomberlin says mosquitoes have receptors on their antennae that can intercept mass quorum sensing.
So, Tomberlin and a team of researchers set out to determine whether or not it is possible to prevent mosquitoes from attacking by eliminating the communication signals they intercept.
The study altered the genetic makeup of Staphylococcus epidermidis (S. epidermidis), one of the most common bacteria found on human skin, rendering it unable to use its quorum sensing system.
The team also used blood feeders, culture flasks covered in paraffin film mosquitoes can bite through. The flasks contained a millimeter of rabbit blood and either the altered or unaltered version of S. epidermidis.
The two types of feeders were placed in a cage with 50 mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti species, the primary carriers of yellow fever, for 15 minutes.
The researchers also placed each type of feeder in a cage alone with the insects.
When they had to decide between the two feeders, Tomberlin said,
...twice as many mosquitoes were attracted to the wild type on the blood feeder rather than the mutant on a blood feeder.
The altered, or mutant, bacteria's lack of the communication system made the mosquitoes significantly less inclined to bite because they couldn't detect reasons to do so.
[Scientists could soon] produce natural repellents that will allow us to lie to mosquitoes.
Such a repellent could even be safer than chemical DEET, a common ingredient in bug spray believed to be harmful to the skin.
However, this solution may still need some work: Bacteria are capable of evolving to resist such inhibiting compounds, and the researchers have yet to test that out.