Odd Malaria Risk Factor: Drinking Beer | Science | Smithsonian
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Odd Malaria Risk Factor: Drinking Beer

Here in the United States, we rarely have to worry that a mosquito bite will cause malaria. Like Canada, Australia, much of Europe and a few other places, we've been designated "malaria-free" by World Health Organization. Other places aren't so lucky. Nearly one million people died from the disease...

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Could drinking beer make you more attractive to a mosquito? (image courtesy of flickr user Aesum)




Here in the United States, we rarely have to worry that a mosquito bite will cause malaria. Like Canada, Australia, much of Europe and a few other places, we've been designated "malaria-free" by World Health Organization. Other places aren't so lucky. Nearly one million people died from the disease in 2008, according to the WHO.



As you might have suspected, mosquitoes do not pick their victims randomly, and some people are more susceptible to being bitten than others. Our body odor, diet and health and reproductive status can all contribute to that susceptibility. Now scientists working in Burkina Faso have added one more factor to that list: whether or not a person is drinking beer.



In a new study, which appears in the journal PLOS One, 25 adult males consumed a liter of beer and 18 consumed an equal amount of water. The beer was a local variety called dolo, which has about a 3 percent alcoholic content and is made from sorghum. The researchers measured how attracted mosquitoes were to the men's scent before and one hour after consuming the beer or water. The insects were more attracted to the scents of men who had drunk the beer than they were to that of the men before drinking or those who had drunk the water.



The scientists aren't sure if it is the alcohol in the beer or some other ingredients that are boosting the men's attractiveness to the mosquitoes. They'll have to perform more experiments with other alcoholic beverages to find out. But if you're in a malaria-prone area—or just want to avoid being covered in scratchy bumps—it might be a good idea to lay off the beer. Or at least wear a lot of insect repellent.



( Hat tip: Discoblog/NBCI ROFL)
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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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