Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Topical Treatment

Anti-viral cream imiquimod applied to mosquito bites reduces extent of infection of mosquito-borne viruses like Zika

04 March 2020

Topical Treatment

From dengue to Zika, mosquito-borne viruses are a significant global problem, likely to grow in the face of climate change. Many of these viruses co-occur and initially cause similar symptoms, making early diagnosis difficult, but recent research suggests that multiple viruses could be tackled in the same way, by boosting immune defences in the skin. Experiments on both mice and human skin samples suggest that quickly applying a skin cream containing the anti-viral imiquimod, currently used to treat basal cell skin cancer, on mosquito bites can reduce the extent of infection by several viruses. Pictured is a section from a mouse’s brain, infected by the mosquito-borne Semliki Forest virus (in pink); imiquimod application reduced viral replication in the skin and its spread to other tissues, significantly increasing survival. Subject to testing for safe use in this context, imiquimod-containing creams could potentially provide some protection against a range of mosquito-borne viruses.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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