Researchers discover how west nile virus survives in mosquitoes

Aug 26, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- West Nile virus tricks mosquitoes into producing a particular protein complex that allows it to survive and be transmitted, Yale researchers report in the Sept. 3 issue of the journal Cell.

This molecular survival mechanism helps explain how got a foothold for the first time in North America nearly a decade ago, note the researchers. And as temperatures rise in the hemisphere, this mechanism may help public health officials in traditionally temperate climates identify emerging threats from tropical diseases, they add.

West Nile needs to survive in both and in the host organisms the insects feed upon, such as birds and humans. How the accomplishes this has been unclear. Once confined exclusively to the Old World, West Nile was first reported in North America in Queens, NY in 1999. Since then it has established itself in both mosquitoes and host populations across the country, causing sporadic outbreaks of flu-like illnesses, encephalitis and occasional deaths.

The Yale team was led by Erol Fikrig, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Medicine, professor of epidemiology and and senior author of the study. The researchers found that the virus requires a specific molecular chain of events in order to survive in mosquitoes after they have fed on infected hosts. The presence of the virus induces expression of a large amount of a C-type lectin protein in the mosquito. The virus then hitchhikes on this protein and teams with yet another protein to gain entry into the cell where it can reproduce.

Fikrig, an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is studying whether this same mechanism plays a role in the life cycle of other mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. In theory, interrupting this mechanism could prevent mosquitoes from acquiring and passing on diseases.

Fikrig also notes that it may be possible to predict the spread of emerging into traditionally more temperate climates by understanding which mosquito populations produce the proteins complexes. Public health officials could be particularly vigilant in regions with large numbers of mosquitoes capable of harboring the viruses, he notes.

Explore further: Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

Related Stories

New and improved test for West Nile virus in horses

Aug 20, 2008

A new test for West Nile virus in horses that could be modified for use on humans and wildlife may help track the spread of the disease, according to an article in the September issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

Montana mosquito season is extended

Sep 14, 2006

Unusually long-lasting hot weather conditions in Montana have prompted U.S. scientists to extend the season for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus.

Study shows long-term West Nile effects

Aug 16, 2006

U.S. medical experts say half of those infected with West Nile virus have ongoing health concerns more than a year later, including fatigue and tremors.

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

17 hours ago

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

Stopping Candida in its tracks

Jul 03, 2015

Scientists are one step closer to understanding how a normally harmless fungus changes to become a deadly infectious agent.

New technique maps elusive chemical markers on proteins

Jul 02, 2015

Unveiling how the 20,000 or so proteins in the human body work—and malfunction—is the key to understanding much of health and disease. Now, Salk researchers developed a new technique that allows scientists ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.