The risk is already in Spain. The ‘Aedes aegypti’ mosquito, which can transmit dengue (as well as yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya), has reached southern European countries. This was warned by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the beginning of April, at a press conference from Geneva, Switzerland. The technical chief of zika and chikungunya of the international organization, Diana Rojas Álvarez, alleged that “with climate change” the population of this insect “have been increasing by altitude and latitude”. So in the northern hemisphere “now there are autochthonous cases.” In our country, the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies of the Ministry of Health released a report yesterday in which 6 infections by this disease occurred here.
At this point, a scientific-medical investigation of vital importance lands. A team of researchers led by A specialist of Spanish and Puerto Rican origin has discovered the powerful weapon used by dengue to destroy our defenses, a virus that affects some 390 million people a year and kills 21,000, according to data from public health organizations.
The key is in some molecules present in the saliva of the dengue-transmitting mosquito, which weaken the human immune system and help the infection take hold in the body, according to Mariano García-Blanco, head of the team in charge of the finding and of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology at the University of Virginia, in statements to EFE. The discovery, published in the journal PLOS Pathogenstook place in two laboratories in Singapore and Texas run by this naturalized American scientist.
Is about one more step to understand the ease with which this virus is transmitted. In an interview with the aforementioned Spanish information agency, Garcia-Blanco, a renowned specialist in Biology and Virology, proudly recounts that one of the members of the Singapore team, Shih-Chia Yeh, was the one who discovered the presence of the ribonucleic acid (sfRNA) molecules produced by the virus in the saliva of dengue-infected female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Another researcher, Tania Strilets, a Canadian of Ukrainian origin, was the one who “visualized” how the mechanism works in the Texas laboratory. “By introducing this RNA to the bite site, dengue-infected saliva prepares the ground for efficient infection and gives the virus an advantage in the first battle between it and our immune defences,” the researchers write in the scientific article about their findings.
The “little bit” of ribonucleic acid that the mosquito “spits out” on the person’s skin suppresses the innate immunity system, the first alarm that something strange It is invading us, García-Blanco abounds. He adds: “It’s remarkable how clever these viruses are: they subvert mosquito biology to suppress our immune responses so that the infection can take hold.”
Dengue is transmitted by female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which, in turn, have been infected by biting infected humans. Cases of human-to-human transmission are “very rare,” García-Blanco told EFE, explaining that the fight against the virus is centered on the mosquito, given that until now There is no cure for dengue and there are no fully effective vaccines..
The Aedes aegypti is the living being that kills the most people in the world after human beings themselves, says the scientist. And he adds that, of all the viral diseases that he transmits, dengue is the most widespread. He also underlines the position of the chief Zika technician at the WHO and ensures that the habitat of the transmitting mosquito is expanding, in part thanks to global warming.
The symptoms of dengue disease are fever, pain in muscles and joints, skin rashes and bleeding that can cause death in the most serious cases. In addition to having autochthonous cases of dengue in southern European countries, García-Blanco adds that they also occur in the extreme south of Latin America, in areas of Argentina and Chile, where they were rarely seen in the past.
The scientist adds that in the US, where dengue is present in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico states and Florida, the threat stalks the rest of the country and remember that in the past there were Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in northern states. Likewise, he affirms that “evolution makes mosquitoes become resistant to insecticides and also that they adapt ‘wonderfully’ to our way of living in megacities with poverty belts.”
On the discovery about mosquito saliva, he says: “I don’t think this is something we can use tomorrow, but the more we understand how the virus is transmitted, the easier it will be to develop tools against transmission.”