Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquito

Photo credit: Alex Wild[1]
(Click on the photo to get a larger image.)

This terrifying picture shows an Aedes aegypti mosquito rising out of the water immediately after it has metamorphosed from its larval stage. Without a sense of scale this creature looks like some dragon from a Peter Jackson film. Despite the fact that it is just a mosquito, the insect is none-the-less horrifying. This is the mosquito that carries the Zika virus that has been plaguing much of the tropical zones of the world. This is not a new virus; it has been documented as early as 1947. For some people the Zika virus causes nothing more than a rash and flu-like symptoms. What is new is the link between Zika and two conditions in humans. There is growing evidence that the Zika virus can induce microcephaly in the fetuses of pregnant women and that Zika may trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome (a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system[2]).

Scientists and the World Health Organization are extremely concerned about the effects of this virus and are working hard to develop vaccines and ways to combat the mosquito. It is now known that the Zika virus can infect and kill neural progenitor cells in vitro and this may be the mechanism by which it causes microcephaly.[3] The world waits as more research and vaccine trials occur. Let us hope and pray that effective solutions may be found.

[1] Science News; March 18, 2016; “Special Report: Here's what we know about Zika”;; accessed 2016-03-23.
[2] NIH; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Guillain-Barré Syndrome Fact Sheet;; accessed 2016-03-23.
[3] Science News; March 18, 2016; “How Zika became the prime suspect in microcephaly mystery;”; accessed 2016-03-23.

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