Can Abstaining from Beer Help You Avoid Zika?
Even when they aren’t spreading disease, mosquitos are terrible. They buzz; they bite; they cause a lot of itching. But the pests have gone from annoying to downright frightening with the recent spread of the Zika virus. It’s left a lot of people looking for ways to avoid getting bitten, and a number of news outlets are resurfacing a tip that might make beer lovers unhappy: don’t drink.
A couple of studies have supported the idea the humans become more attractive to mosquitos after ingesting alcohol, specifically beer. A small 2002 study entitled “Alcohol ingestion stimulates mosquito attraction” looked at 14 people – 13 lucky volunteers and one man who had to abstain from drinking as the control. After the participants each drank 350 ml of 5.5 percent beer, the “study demonstrated that percent mosquito landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion, showing clearly that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction.”
In 2010, a team lead by French researchers found, as it is titled, that “Beer Consumption Increases Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes.” In their study, 43 subjects drank either beer or water, with the result that “water consumption had no effect on human attractiveness to An. gambiae mosquitoes, but beer consumption increased volunteer attractiveness.” In their conclusion, the study’s authors wrote, “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.”
Thanks to studies such as these, avoiding beer has become a hot tip in articles suggesting ways of reducing your odds of getting the Zika virus. Back in April, the LA Times suggested it. In May, the Huffington Post mentioned it. More recently, the Eureka Times Standard found the idea so exciting they even led with it, posting an article yesterday entitled, “Tips to avoiding mosquito bites: Beer could be a lure.”
As far as I’ve seen, no study specifically links beer to increased odds for Zika itself. But until more research is done, it does appear enough dots have been connected that if you’re in an area where the Zika virus is a concern, you’re better safe than tipsy. For now beer lovers, may want to save their vacation days, and choose a cool weather trip to Germany for Oktoberfest instead.