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Mosquito Bites May Be More Dangerous Than We Thought


By James Donahue

June 2005


There is disturbing new medical news this month suggesting that two dangerous diseases carried by mosquitoes, Malaria and West Nile Virus, may carry a bigger punch than ever when we are bitten.


Research at St. George University of London has revealed that the malaria parasite may becoming resistant to artemisinins, the newest and preferred drug used against this killer disease. Additional research is being conducted before the team reaches a final conclusion on this issue.


Malaria strikes an estimated 500 million people a year and is responsible for about two million deaths.


Yet another team of scientists at University of Texas has discovered that mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus can pass the virus to other mosquitoes as they feed on the blood of the same animal.


This discovery helps explain why the disease spread so rapidly throughout the United States following its arrival.


It was once thought that most animals were considered dead-end hosts that did not pass along West Nile to new swarms of mosquitoes.


The female mosquitoes become infected with West Nile while feeding on birds with high levels of the virus in their blood. The birds, in turn, are infected after being bitten by infected mosquitoes. But once bitten, it takes several days for the virus to build up in the blood.


Climate changes from global warming may soon bring more of these and other diseases, once thought to be confined to the tropics, into the United States.


Records show that mosquito-borne bugs like dengue and yellow fever also are known to exist in the United States, although they have not been common. The biggest problem has been in the warmer countries, although the mosquitoes that carry these diseases seem to be working their way northward with each passing season.



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