Dengue and Zika manipulate the skin microbiome of the hosts in order to favor the production of acetophenone, which stimulates mosquito bites and, ultimately, the spread of viral infections
Viruses that are transmitted via mosquito bites they are capable of altering the organism’s microbiome that infect in order to make it produce a particularly attractive smell for the insects responsible for the spread of the infection. This was revealed by a study just published in the journal Cell, conducted by scientists from the University of Connecticut, Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Shenzhen Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Ruili Hospital of Chinese Medicine and Dai Medicine, the disease laboratory of Yunnan tropical and subtropical animal viruses and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study on dengue and Zika
The research was carried out on dengue and Zika viruses and conducted with specially infected or healthy mice (as a control group). Insects were most attracted to mice that harbored viruses in their bodies. These pathogens, the research authors report, appear to have developed a method to increase the likelihood of infecting more individuals. After examining the molecules present in the skin of infected animals, the scientists identified theacetofenoneproduced by Bacillus bacteria that proliferate on the human and murine dermis, as one of the stronger calls for mosquitoes. The rodents that were sick exuded about 10 times more acetophenone than their uninfected counterparts. The researchers also found that human dengue patients emitted more of the molecule than healthy people. “The virus can manipulate the skin microbiome of the hosts – explained Penghua Wang, immunologist at the University of Connecticut – in order to favor the production of acetophenone, which stimulates mosquito bites and, ultimately, the spread of the infection”.
Smells of disease
A person can enact a different body odor when she is sick, especially with an infection. Covid patients, for example, release a distinctive blend of molecules that dogs and electronic ‘noses’ can detect. Malaria parasites also change the smell of human hosts, and insulin spikes in diabetes sufferers can be smelled by trained dogs.
An antidote to keep mosquitoes away
The usefulness of this discovery comes from the possibility of inhibiting odor at a chemical level in order to discourage mosquitoes and therefore reduce the risk of transmission. In particular, the scientists evaluated in this case the effectiveness of a derivative of vitamin A, isotretinoin: attractiveness appeared to be reduced in animals treated with this product for mosquitoes. “For the next steps – the authors conclude – we will continue to explore this compound also in human patients, in order to verify if the alteration of the odor of the skin and the microbiome can reduce the risk of contagion and transmission of the Zika and dengue virus” . A new way to combat these diseases by reducing the call for mosquitoes.
Dengue and Zika around the world
Dengue, transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical areas and occasionally in subtropical areas, causes fever, rashes and pain, and, in the most acute cases, bleeding and death. From the same family, the Zika virus causes a viral disease associated with severe symptoms and is also carried by mosquitoes.
In Italy, dozens of cases of Dengue are reported every year, but in general they are infections contracted abroad (see article on the subject WHO
July 2, 2022 (change July 2, 2022 | 19:00)
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