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The Itchier the Bite, the More Likely You Will Get Infected with a Mosquito-Borne Illness

July 5th, 2016

Those itchy mosquito bites are bad enough, but now we also have to deal with the worry that we might catch one of a host of horrible mosquito-borne illnesses. And the news only gets worse. New research suggests that the worse a person’s reaction is to a mosquito bite, the more likely they are to catch a disease from an infected mosquito.

Scientists recently performed an experiment on mice testing this theory where they let the mosquito that carries yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, to bite one set of mice and then injected them with the Semliki Forest virus. With the second group of mice the researches only injected them with the virus, and didn’t also let mosquitos bite them. They found that the immune cells designed to help us resist diseases would then rush to the site of the bite, and then would actually help the virus spread and replicate rather than hinder it. Thanks a lot immune system!

This means that mosquito bites actually help these viruses to spread and infect us. And the worse our reaction to the bite, the more inflamed the bite is, the more immune cells rush to that spot and help the virus spread throughout our body. The mosquito-borne viruses such as yellow fever, dengue, and the Zika virus have evolved to use the mosquito bites that spread them to enhance their chance of surviving and thriving in the host body.

However, on the other hand, this new information about the way these viruses spread could also help us figure out how to better combat them. Lowering the number of mosquitos around to bite unsuspecting humans is the obvious answer to eliminating these diseases. We already have many insect repellents that can help us prevent mosquito bites. Our only challenge is in getting people to use them and us them correctly. By stopping the mosquitos from biting us, we would stop people from getting infected by these viruses.

This recent study now suggests that treating them with simple anti-inflammatory drugs may also serve to decrease the chances of a human catching one of these diseases. If it is our immune response that is helping the viruses thrive in our bodies, then by treating the symptoms such as itchiness and inflammation with simple over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatory creams we can lessen our bodies immune response and thereby also decrease the help these viruses get from that immune response that increases their ability to spread and thrive in our bodies.

What do you think of this new discovery? Will you start using medicine to decrease the risk of catching these diseases?

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