Mosquitoes: how their saliva activates our immune system

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Elia Tabuenca García
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The saliva of mosquitoes alone is enough to trigger an immune response in humans. This was revealed by a new study, conducted by American scientists from Baylor College of Medicine

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The saliva of mosquitoes alone is enough to trigger an immune response in humans. This was revealed by a new study, conducted by American scientists from Baylor College of Medicine.

Mosquito season is almost upon us. Although in our country, mosquitoes do not cause very serious diseases, in other areas of the world their bite can even lead to death. For this, research on these insects does not stop.

According to the new study, mosquitoes themselves increase the severity of the diseases they transmit, and their saliva plays an active role in this process.

The Baylor College of Medicine research team closely examined the effect of mosquito saliva alone and found that it can trigger an unexpected variety of immune responses in humans.

"Billions of people around the world are exposed to mosquito-borne diseases, and many of these conditions lack effective treatments," he said study author, Dr. Rebecca Rico-Hesse, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine. "One of my lab's interests is to study the development of dengue fever, caused by the dengue virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito."

The World Health Organization has estimated that 100 million dengue virus infections and 22.000 deaths occur each year worldwide, mostly among children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of the world's population lives in areas at risk of infection, making the dengue virus a leading cause of disease and death in the tropics and subtropics.

The scientists for the study calculated the levels of cytokines, the molecules that modulate the immune response, but also that of different types of immune cells. Based on the observations and analyzes carried out, they confirmed that mosquitoes do not simply act as "syringes", simply by injecting viruses into the animals they eat. Their saliva appears to contribute significantly to the development of the disease.



"We found that the saliva delivered by mosquitoes induced a complex and varied immune response that we did not expect," said co-author Dr. Silke Paust. "We have seen the activation of T helper 1 cells, which generally contribute to antiviral immunity, as well as the activation of T helper 2 cells, linked to allergic responses."

These results offer the opportunity to develop effective strategies to prevent the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

READ also:

  • How to protect yourself from mosquitoes: all the really effective remedies for adults and children
  • Mosquitoes: 8 things to know
  • Here's what scientists discovered by putting smelly socks in front of mosquitoes

Francesca Mancuso



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