Well That BITES or Why Mosquitoes Have More Fun

Written by QMI Agency for The Toronto Sun

Bad news for outdoorsy types: mosquitoes like beer as much as you do. This according to an Australian study published on PloS One, the Public Library of Science online. A team of researchers in Australia put volunteers in tents in Burkina Faso in West Africa. The tents used a complex system of tubing to direct the volunteers’ body odour into boxes in such a way that the mosquitoes could choose which scent to go after.

Half the volunteers – all men between 20 and 43 – were given one litre of 3% beer to drink, and the other half were given a litre of water. Then the researchers unleashed the lab-bred mosquitoes. The experiment was conducted four times: before beer, after beer, before water and after water.

The after-beer group drew 47% of the mosquitoes, compared to the 35% for the before-beer group. But there was almost no difference between the before-water and after-water groups, who drew 37% and 38%, respectively.

“Despite individual volunteer variation, beer consumption consistently increased attractiveness to mosquitoes,” wrote the study’s authors.

The researchers have no idea why mosquitoes prefer the odour of beer drinkers. All they could determine is that it wasn’t related to increased breathing or changes in body temperature. They also don’t know if the bugs are beer lovers or booze lovers.

“To eliminate the possibility that other active ingredients in beer apart from alcohol could be driving the observed effects, future studies are needed to test whether consumption of other alcoholic beverages also increases the risk of being bitten.”

While there are plenty of jokes to be made in Canada as cottage season approaches, the study’s authors take a more serious tone, noting the rise of both alcohol consumption and malaria in many developing countries.

“The alcoholic beverage used in this experiment is a very popular drink in West Africa. Therefore, the increased attractiveness following beer consumption found here raises crucial issues regarding strategic planning for malaria control,” the study says. “These results suggest that beer consumption is a risk factor for malaria and needs to be integrated into public health policies for the design of control measures.”