News / Health

Scientists Target Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Multimedia

Carol Pearson

Of all the disease-spreading insects in the world, the mosquito poses the greatest menace, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  As if to underscore that threat, two mosquito-borne viral diseases have begun to spread well beyond their points of origin.  One is dengue fever, a potentially deadly illness, and the other is chikungunya, a debilitating and painful disease from which most people can recover. There are no vaccines to prevent these diseases.  But researchers are working hard to develop vaccines against dengue fever and chikungunya, and to control the mosquitoes that spread them.

Scientists have identified at least 3,000 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world. The Asian tiger mosquito is one that bites during the day.

The tiger mosquito's bite is more than annoying. It's responsible for infecting 20 million people a year with dengue fever, a flu-like illness that can result in hemorrhagic fever, shock syndrome, and even death.  

"It's almost completely spread throughout the tropics and subtropics throughout the world," said Weaver.  

Scott Weaver at the University of Texas Medical Branch confirms what other scientists are seeing, mosquitoes that can transmit dengue fever have spread though India, Southeast Asia and Latin America and are finding their way around the world. There were more than 12 confirmed cases this year in Florida, in the southeastern United States.

The tiger mosquito can also spread chikungunya, a debilitating disease that causes extreme joint pain and fever. The illness is spread as well by an African mosquito, which is also expanding its range.  Professor Laura Harrington is an insect specialist at Cornell University. She says it's not just the mosquitoes' range that's changing:

"We're also seeing changes, particularly with the viruses; we're seeing changes in their genetic material which often can lead to increased virulence," Harrington noted.

On top of that, mosquitoes can arrive in new destinations aboard planes and in cars.  

"It's a virus that has the ability to travel on airplanes and in infected people very readily," Weaver added.

Weaver is working on a vaccine for chikungunya that has successfully protected lab mice from getting the virus. At Cornell, Harrington is working to make the male mosquito infertile.

"The idea is that these modified males that don't take a blood meal could be released, mate with the wild females, the females wouldn't reproduce, they wouldn't take a blood meal, and the population would be eliminated or reduced," Harrington explained.

Both scientists are concerned that if a way to control the spread of chikungunya and dengue fever is not found soon, both diseases will become established in the United States. Harrington says that techniques that prove successful against these illnesses might also be used to break the cycle of other mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid