A discovery by a Washington State University-led research team has the potential to inhibit the spread of West Nile virus as well as Zika and dengue viruses.
In a study published today in the journal Cell Reports, researchers demonstrated that mammalian insulin activated an antiviral immunity pathway in mosquitoes, increasing the insects’ ability to suppress the viruses.
Mosquito bites are the most common way humans are infected with flaviviruses, a virus family that includes West Nile, dengue and Zika. In humans, both West Nile and dengue can result in severe illness, even death. Zika has been linked to birth defects when pregnant women are infected.
“It’s really important that we have some sort of protection against these diseases because currently, we don’t have any treatments. If we’re able to stop the infection at the level of the mosquito, then humans wouldn’t get the virus,” said Laura Ahlers, the study’s lead author and a recent Ph.D. graduate from WSU. Ahlers is now a post-doctoral fellow with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.