Dengue and Zika virus with smell to attract mosquitoes

Dengue and Zika virus with smell to attract mosquitoes

Dengue and Zika viruses are transmitted through mosquito bites. Now, a study led by researchers in China shows that when humans and mice become infected with these viruses, they secrete a chemical that makes them more attractive to the mosquitoes that spread the viruses.

Almost half of the world’s population lives in a dengue risk area. The lack of treatment means that many affected regions have high morbidity and mortality rates. The new study, published in the journal cellfound a way to reduce the release of this substance in mice and make mosquito bites less frequent: treatment with a commercial acne medication.

Both viruses of the genus flaviviruses, They depend on these insects to survive in the wild. If a healthy mosquito bites an infected host, it can contract the infection and then transmit it to other people through its bites.

The work shows that mosquitoes of the genus aedes have a behavior guest search, which may be caused by the smell of animals infected with these viruses. The species Aedes aegypti Y Aedes albopictus They are vectors of Zika and Dengue transmission.

Mosquitoes of the genus ‘Aedes’ exhibit host-seeking behavior that may be driven by the scent of infected animals.

“Mosquitoes rely on their sense of Odor to recognize their guests,” explains GongchengResearchers at Tsinghua University (Beijing) and lead author of the study: “At the beginning of the study, we found that these vector insects preferred to seek out and feed on infected mice compared to healthy ones.”

An ingenious strategy to increase infection

To investigate why the mosquitoes preferred infected hosts, the team analyzed samples of skin odor of mice and infected humans to study odorant molecules in the epidermis. The researchers observed that the acetophenonea substance that was present in unusually high concentrations on the skin of infected individuals is particularly attractive to mosquitoes.

In humans and mice, acetophenone is produced by some bacteria of the genus bacillus that grow on the skin. Usually this results in a antimicrobial protein -called RELMalfa- which keeps germ populations in check.

“Both dengue virus and Zika virus promote the spread of skin bacteria As a result, some bacteria overreplicate and produce more acetophenone, making these diseased individuals more attractive to mosquitoes.

Dengue-infected people were more attractive to mosquitoes and showed more acetophenone on their skin than healthy people

“Ultimately, the virus can Manipulate the skin’s microbiome their hosts to attract more mosquitoes and spread faster,” she says Penghua WangImmunologist at UConn Health Academic Medical Center (Connecticut, USA) and co-author of the study.

In uncovering the chemical compound’s identity, the researchers found that mice infected with dengue fever given isotretinoin (an acne drug) secreted less acetophenone, which reduced their attractiveness to mosquitoes.

This medicine is a derivative of vitamin A, which is known to increase the production of antimicrobial peptides in the skin.

The experiment was easy. researcher Mice were fed isotretinoin and put them in a cage with mosquitoes. They found that the mosquitoes were no more feeding on infected mice treated with the anti-acne drug than those feeding on uninfected animals.

As Cheng explains to SINC, “given dietary isotretinoin in animals infected with flavivirus reduces production of acetophenone because it remodels it bacterial populations on the host’s skin.

Similar mechanisms in other viruses

“Although we do not have data on other flaviviruses such as yellow fever virus or West Nile virus, we believe that it is very likely that other of these viruses share them similar mechanisms to manipulate the scent of its host. For this reason, we will analyze other mosquito-transmitted flaviviruses and alphaviruses under the same experimental conditions,” Cheng continues.

In the future, the team plans to apply their findings to the real world. “We plan to administer isotretinoin in the United States Nutrition of dengue patientsto find out if this compound decreases the production of acetophenone in humans, as it does in mice,” says the researcher.

The authors are also planning a line of study on mosquitoes: “We want to identify olfactory receptors specific for acetophenone in these insects and remove the genes from the mosquito population using gene drive technology,” explains Cheng.

Without the receptors, mosquitoes will no longer be able to smell their beloved skin molecule, potentially slowing the spread of dengue and other flaviviruses, the authors conclude.

  • Zhang et al. “A volatile from the skin microbiota of flavivirus-infected hosts promotes mosquito attractiveness.” cell (2022).

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