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Mosquito gut holds key to preventing dengue, Zika: Researchers

The infection can essentially be stopped inside the mosquito by exhausting the resource within the mosquito cells or making the metabolites trigger an immune response to the virus.

health Updated: Feb 19, 2018 14:38 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mosquito,Aedes aegypti mosquito,Dengue
The scientists from Colorado State University and Purdue Institute found that there was a change in the metabolites – lipids, fats, sugars, vitamins, and hormones – when the mosquito was infected.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The midgut of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits viruses that cause dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever to humans, holds the key to stop these diseases that affect billions of people across the world every year, researchers have said.

The midgut is the primary site of infection and the metabolic environment of tissues within the gut determines the mosquito’s ability to replicate and transmit a virus.

The scientists from Colorado State University and Purdue Institute found that there was a change in the metabolites – lipids, fats, sugars, vitamins, and hormones – when the mosquito was infected. These metabolites are essential for the survival of the virus within the mosquito.

Their study was published recently in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

“It’s like a bunch of people invading a house and reorganising it to support mischievous activity they want to do in there,” Richard Kuhn, director of Purdue’s Institute of Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said.

The infection can essentially be stopped inside the mosquito by exhausting the resource within the mosquito cells or making the metabolites trigger an immune response to the virus.

“The strategies that are being used right now often involve sterilizing mosquitoes or eradicating them, and those might work, but a subtler way would be simply changing the ability of the virus to exploit a pathway and let the mosquito continue on like nothing happened,” he said.

For dengue virus, the scientists targeted the sphingolipid pathway, which links together several pathways important for cell signalling and subcellular structure. They also found biological “choke-points” that can be manipulated to prevent viruses from spreading.

Every 390 million dengue infections happen across the world, of which 96 million show clinical symptoms, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

First Published: Feb 19, 2018 14:38 IST