It turns out that mosquito bites are not merely itchy annoyances. Researchers from the University of Leeds and University of Glasgow reveal that the itchy inflammation also helps virus spread in a person’s body.

When biting into the skin, the mosquito injects saliva. This causes an immune response from the white blood cells.

However, the bite actually infects the white blood cells called neutrophils and myeloid cells and cause these to replicate the virus. The study published on June 21 in the journal Immunity states this increases the chances of developing critical diseases.

mosquito bites

This shows that inflammation at bite sites aids viral replication and spread, increasing the chances of developing severe infections. Credit: Immunity journal

“Mosquito bites are not just annoying — they are key for how these viruses spread around your body and cause disease,” says the study’s senior author Clive McKimmie, a research fellow at the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine.

The research team used mice to assess the bites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main vector that spreads diseases like dengue, Zika and Chikungunya.

The team observed that the WBC of those mice with mosquito bites got infected and replicated the virus. On the other hand, the cells of the mice without the bites did not replicate the virus.

“This was a big surprise we didn’t expect,” adds McKimmie. “These viruses are not known for infecting immune cells.”

When the researchers stopped the action of the immune cells, the infection alleviated. This suggests that treating the itchy inflammation can stop the illnesses from developing.

The findings can lead the way to improving current anti-inflammatory drugs. Creams or other treatments can soon be used to treat the bite inflammation before the viruses cause problems.

The discovery can significantly help diseases spread by mosquitoes. While no one can tell the next outbreak, at least we will be ready to face it.

Further research about mosquito bites is still needed. Nevertheless, the team believes that the study could also be replicated to combat other viruses.