Mosquitoes - More Than Malaria: A West Nile and Zika Virus Update.
Mosquitoes spread a variety of diseases across the globe and standing water is a common breeding ground for mosquito larvae. Given the recent historic hurricanes in the Southern United States, and similar large rainfalls across the globe, there could be an increase in mosquito populations. There is worry that there could be a growth in the mosquito species that can transmit illnesses such as West Nile Virus (WNV) and Zika Virus (ZKV).1
As with other recent summers, the WNV has been spreading across the United States and causes West Nile Fever. It is commonly spread by mosquitoes, and at the current time, there are no preventative vaccines available. Approximately 20% of people infected present a fever and other symptoms, whereas, 1 in 150 develop serious, and sometimes fatal, conditions.2 Communities, such as our own Louisville, KY, have been identifying West Nile infected mosquitoes and taking precautionary measures to reduce rates of infection.3
In Zika Virus-related news, an NIH researcher reports that a vaccine is on the horizon. Based on promising clinical trials in adults, Mark Challberg, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, predicts that a vaccine will be available in 1-2 years. Globally, there are at least 20 different vaccines in development.4 Additionally, research out of USC and led by Suan-Sin Foo, has discovered that infection with Asian ZKV in pregnant women triggers changes in blood immunity and an increase in Interleukin-10 (IL-10) production, via M2-skewed immunosuppression, particularly within the first two trimesters. IL-10 elevation is thought to increase viral persistence and, at the same time, suppress host immunity. They also confirmed that ZKV targets CD14+ monocytes during pregnancy, as well.5 Finally, researchers out of UCSD and WUSTL have discovered that the Zika Virus has the ability to target and kill glioblastoma stem cells. Glioblastoma is a type of brain tumor and generally recurs and is often lethal. The researchers also tested with WNV, but did not find the same selectivity as with ZKV. The results hold promise for a selective, non-lethal treatment for glioblastoma.6
- SS. Foo et al., Nature Microbiology, 2017. [Epub ahead of print] Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-017-0016-3
- Z. Zhu, et al., Journal of Experimental Medicine, jem.20171093. Retrieved from http://jem.rupress.org/content/early/2017/09/05/jem.20171093