The current Zika virus epidemic has shone a bright light upon the problem of mosquito-borne diseases in the past year. Scientists are looking more and more into how to deal with the problem of mosquitos spreading these diseases as a whole, and have found that some rules apply to all of them. One thing they’ve discovered is that the immune response that our bodies have in reaction to mosquito bites actually helps the virus to spread. The secret is in the mosquito’s spit.
Mosquito saliva is injected into your body whenever a mosquito bites you, and within their saliva is a mixture of chemicals that help get your blood flowing, making it easier for the mosquito to suck that precious blood out. Their saliva doesn’t just give the mosquitos a smoother drink, however. Mosquito saliva causes the site of the bite to become inflamed. As part of the inflammation response our body sends immune cells to the area. These immune cells actually help the virus spread and replicate. This means that the more severe of a reaction you have to the bites the higher chance you have of actually catching the virus and getting sick. Our own body’s reaction to the bite plays a very important role in the virus’ ability to infect the person bitten.
This new discovery has led scientists to the idea that there may be other ways to help prevent us humans from getting sick than just wearing insect repellent. Using anti-inflammatory creams may also help reduce the chances of people getting infected.
What kind of new treatment or preventative medications could this discovery lead to being developed? Do you know of any other ways our own immune response works to our disadvantage?