Mosquitoes employ a two-staged targeting system in their quest to suck our blood. First, they follow the trail of carbon dioxide in our exhaled breaths back to us; then, when they get closer, they zero in on our exposed, tempting flesh by sniffing out the odors of our skin. And we smell pretty good to them; scientists know that, even without the presence of carbon dioxide, a mosquito will still zoom toward the smell of human skin wherever it lingers – unwashed laundry, bedding, even smelly socks.
Scientists have long wondered how exactly the mosquito is attracted to skin scents alone. Pinpointing a receptor in the mosquito that’s key to its skin-sniffing ability could allow researchers to work backwards and find compounds that would block that receptor.