Sunday, November 27, 2016

New Research Findings Could Help Prevent Mosquito-Borne Disease

It is common knowledge that mosquitoes are one of the major vectors for serious disease, especially viral disease, however it is curious how such viruses manage to evade the host mosquito’s immune system.  Researchers at Texas A&M’s AgriLife may have identified this mechanism, and have also developed a proposed solution to treat many of the serious mosquito-borne viruses including Yellow Fever, Dengue, West Nile, and Zika.  The researchers have managed to identify a viral protein that successfully suppresses the immune system by blocking the cellular signals that indicate infection.  This discovery could shift the balance in two ways, either forcing the mosquito’s immune system the identify and attack the virus thus making the virus susceptible to the mosquito and limiting its survivability, or by giving the edge to the virus which would then allow the virus to actually begin to affect the mosquito as it would a human, thus reducing the mosquito’s ability to transmit the virus as it is most likely severely ill or possibly killed by the virus.  It also opens a new lane for research into this protein mechanism of these viruses, for if the virus performs similarly in humans it could be a potential target for vaccination. 

Currently the research is being conducted with the infamous yellow fever virus, however if proven effective this would allow for the vaccine development for not only Yellow Fever, but also Dengue, West Nile, and the newer Zika viruses since they all share the same protein mechanism.  This breakthrough may or may not amount to anything, however, it provides a new insight into disease and virus transmission many of which are significant in humans, often hemorrhagic fever of meningitis syndromes.  Another promising avenue for research into viral treatment, but only time will tell if it is effective and viable for prevention of mosquito-borne disease.

-Ethan Wentworth


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