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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid