Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Sweet Protection

High sugar diet protects against viral infection of mosquitos – more viral spread in areas low in nectar

09 December 2021

Sweet Protection

Females of many mosquito species need a blood meal to reproduce, yet both sexes can also feed on sugary nectar for energy. Arboviruses transmitted by mosquitoes, like Zika or dengue, initially infect the mosquito gut before spreading to the salivary glands, from which they can be passed on to humans when females bite, but it seems the mosquitoes’ diet can affect their susceptibility. To test the effects of sugar feeding in the notorious viral vector Aedes aegypti, researchers fed females with sucrose solution dyed blue, to verify ingestion (pictured, left), then compared them with unfed females (right). Following a sugar meal, several genes associated with immunity were upregulated, and mosquitoes were less likely to be successfully infected by arboviruses, including Zika. Unfortunately, in many urban areas, A. aegypti are thought to feed primarily on blood, with very little nectar, and this could be contributing to high rates of virus transmission.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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