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Can mosquitoes transmit AIDS?

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Can mosquitoes transmit AIDS?

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Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Madang, Papua New Guinea. Surveys to determine knowledge regarding AIDS have shown in many countries, including Papua New Guinea, that a large proportion of the literate population still mistakenly believe that mosquitoes can transmit the AIDS virus from one person to another. In this paper we review the theoretical mechanisms which would allow blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes to transmit virus and discuss the evidence against transmission of HIV by mosquitoes. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease with no scientific evidence for arthropod transmission. PIP: Surveys in many countries, including Papua New Guinea, show that a large proportion of the literate population still believe the fallacy that mosquitoes can transmit the AIDS virus from one person to another. Since AIDS was first recognized, many have reported on the possibility of mosquito involvement in the transmission of the virus.

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Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the deadly epidemic caused by the HIV virus, is most often transmitted by contaminated hypodermic needles or through sexual contact. Since mosquitoes feed on human blood and may attack a series of individuals, the question arises: Can you get AIDS from a mosquito bite? According to Jonathan F. Day, of the University of Florida’s Medical Entomology Laboratory, insects can transmit viruses in two ways, mechanically and biologically. With mechanical transmission, infected blood on the insect’s mouthparts might be carried to another host while the blood is still fresh and the virus is still alive. Infection by this means is possible but highly unlikely, because mosquitoes seldom have fresh blood on the outside of their mouthparts. Mechanical transmission does occur in horses, however, with equine infectious anemia, a virus closely related to AIDS and transmitted by horseflies.

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The HIV virus that produces AIDS in humans does not develop in mosquitoes. If HIV infected blood is taken up by a mosquito the virus is treated like food and digested along with the blood meal. If the mosquito takes a partial blood meal from an HIV positive person and resumes feeding on a non-infected individual, insufficient particles are transferred to initiate a new infection. If a fully engorged mosquito with HIV positive blood is squashed on the skin, there would be insufficient transfer of virus to produce infection. The virus diseases that use insects as agents of transfer produce tremendously high levels of parasites in the blood. The levels of HIV that circulate in human blood are so low that HIV antibody is used as the primary diagnosis for infection.

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Many studies have been conducted on this issue and there has never been a successful transfer of the virus from an infected source to another host by blood feeding insects under experimental conditions. The experts have concluded that the insects are not capable of such transmission. Many biological reasons would lead one to this same conclusion, but the extensive experimental studies are the most powerful evidence for the conclusion. HIV DOES NOT replicate in mosquitoes. Thus, mosquitoes cannot be a biological vector as they are for malaria, yellow fever, or dengue. In fact, mosquitoes digest the virus that causes AIDS. There is no possibility of mechanical transmission (i.e., flying contaminated syringes); even though we all know, that HIV can be transmitted by dirty needles. However, the amount of “blood” on a mosquitoes’ mouthparts is tiny compared to what is found on a “dirty” needle. Thus, the risk is proportionally smaller.

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