+
mosquitoes, bug bites, dengue, Zika, mice, study
Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash

Mosquitoes are attracted to certain viral smells in both humans and mice.

As much as I love summer, there is one thing I could do without: bugs. More specifically, mosquitoes. Those pesky little buggers can wreak havoc on a beautiful summer day. Who hasn't spent time outside in summer and then come in all itchy and covered in bites? There are multiple reasons why some people are more susceptible to mosquito bites than others, but there's a new one that likely isn't on people's radars. Mosquitoes could be attracted to the odor certain viruses create in the body.

There is evidence that mosquitoes are attracted to the odor given off by mice infected by the parasite that causes malaria. Now, a team is looking at how the scent of mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and Zika would attract mosquitoes to people rather than mice.


For those who may be unfamiliar with the two viruses, the most important thing to know about them both is how dangerous they are to humans. Some effects of dengue include vomiting, aches and pains, and in severe cases, internal bleeding, according to the CDC. Zika virus is best known for being dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause certain kinds of birth defects in fetuses, per the CDC.

Because both viruses rely on mosquitoes for transmission, it begs the question: Do people infected with either viruses give off extra tasty odors? That's what the team was looking to discover.

"I mean, the infection just increase[s] the chance to be located by a mosquito," Penghua Wang, an immunologist with University of Connecticut Health, told NPR.

Wang and the rest of his team set out to find out if it's true that infected people become mosquito chow, and undertook a study, which was recently published in the journal Cell. In the study, they blew two different types of air: one infected with either of the two viruses and one without, over two different groups of mice. As to be expected, the mosquitoes buzzed around those infected mice like they were a buffet dinner.

"These two viruses can alter a person's body odor to be more attractive to mosquitoes," Wang said. What happens is that the smell alters the skin's microbiome to make it more appetizing to the blood-sucking little critters. Wang explained to NPR that he was "excited" by this new development as it could lead to a lot of understanding of virus transmission by mosquitoes.

While this is an incredibly positive prospect, it's important to keep in mind that experimenting on mice isn't really the same as experimenting on people. And just because this is going well with mice doesn't mean it will go well with people. But, during the study, the team discovered that people infected with dengue had similar attention from the mosquitoes.

The other promising thing? Since they've discovered the attraction, they were also able to find a possible treatment plan. They discovered that when they gave the sick mice a vitamin A supplement, the mosquitoes lost interest. Knowing this information can help researchers explore how Zika and dengue spread. According to Wang, in some of the areas where dengue and Zika are most common, many people are vitamin A deficient.

Whatever they discover, I'm very curious to see if this information will offer insight on not only how diseases get spread, but also what makes people (like me) more susceptible to getting bitten in the first place.




Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

Some cries for help can be hard to discern.

“I’m fine.”

How easily these two words slip from our mouths, often when nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes, it feels safer to hide our true feelings, lest someone make a judgment or have a negative reaction. Other times, it’s a social rule instilled in childhood, perhaps even through punishment. Or maybe denying is the only way to combat overwhelm—if we ignore it all long enough, things will eventually get better anyway.

At the end of the day … it’s all about avoiding further pain, isn’t it?

But this denial can lead to even more suffering—not only emotionally, but physically as well. Everything from stiff muscles, to migraines, to digestive issues can stem from suppressing emotions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy and delight.

From stellar sportsmanship to corntastic kiddos to adorable animals, enjoy the best of the internet this week.

Wait. Are we really almost halfway through August already? Didn't I just write one of these intros talking about how summer had arrived? What the heck happened???

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess, and these weekly roundups are nothing but fun. Every day it seems like we're bombarded with something new to stress about or be outraged over, but not here. In this space, we celebrate simple joys, awesome humans, hilarious animals and all things smile-worthy.

This week alone, we've seen sportsmanship that inspired us, parenting that touched our hearts and kiddos that tickled our funny bones. Readers have told us they look forward to our 10 things roundup every week, which is good because we have no intention of stopping. (Honestly, it's therapeutic to pull this list together, so win-win all around!)

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

How breastfeeding actually works is seriously awe-inspiring

Let's take a moment to marvel at this miraculous process.

A viral video shows what's happening beneath the surface when a baby breastfeeds.

Let me start by saying I don't care whether you breastfeed or not. Everyone's circumstances are different, no one needs to explain why they did or didn't breastfeed their babies and we'd all be better off with far fewer judgments across the baby-feeding spectrum.

With that disclaimer out of the way, can we at least all agree that breastfeeding is freaking awesome?

I mean, the whole biological process of growing an entire human practically from scratch is mind-blowing all by itself. But the fact that our bodies then create food to feed that human, with a whole system for how and when that food gets made and released, is just so cool.

Keep ReadingShow less