Anti-saliva vaccine could curb mosquito bites


June 28, 2018

mosquito photo

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Scientists are searching for a way to help fight the effects of mosquito saliva by developing a vaccine against it. Because mosquito saliva can open the door for a number of diseases, this vaccine will protect against many pathogens. For this to be possible, scientists must understand exactly how the saliva effects our immune system and how it encourages the development of harmful pathogens.

When mosquitoes bite, they inject saliva and other liquids into our bloodstream, leaving itchy red bumps on the skin. Research has revealed that the cause of irritation from a mosquito bite may also be a sign that the body’s immune system is being affected for periods lasting up to a week. During this time — when we have the itchy bump — the saliva from the mosquito is priming the body for illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever by altering our immune system. This conclusion was made when a study using mice showed a change in the immune systems of the mice after being bitten.

The first step in creating this vaccine is identifying which proteins in the saliva are problematic. The goal is to create a vaccine to prevent the saliva from attacking our immune system so that we can fight off the diseases that come with the bite itself. Scientists are also researching the effects of tick and sand fly saliva on our immune systems — also combatted by this vaccine.

One potential problem with the “spit” vaccine is that underexposure to the saliva may cause it to wear off. When a human goes unexposed to saliva for a few months, the antibodies produced from the vaccine disappear. On the other hand, for someone who lives in a mosquito-dense area, the shot may act as a booster. Each time you are bitten by a mosquito, the antibodies from the vaccine are put to work.

The researchers say it could take up to 10 years to accurately pinpoint which proteins in the saliva are having the most significant impact on our immune system and if the immunization will prevent disease transmission. However, this vaccine could help lower the nearly 1,700 deaths each day around the world caused by mosquito bites, according to Popular Science.


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