Summer is here, which means warmer weather, vacations, cookouts, and of course, all the fun that comes along with that - including mosquito bites. No matter how much bug spray we slather on, we inevitably find ourselves coming home with a few bites. But now, a new study published the the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers may be able to explain why those bites itch so much.
When mosquitoes bite us, they inject a bit of their saliva, which is what makes the bite itch. Mosquito saliva contains various proteins that people are slightly allergic to. In the study, researchers were able to create a close replica of the human immune system in mice in order to study how those proteins reacted.
The study suggests that a person's immune system could react with those proteins for up to a week, potentially explaining why those bites itch for so long.
Scientists analyzed the blood bone marrow, skin and spleen cells of the mice and found that the number of immune cells remained active up to seven days after the mice were bitten by mosquitoes. Senior study author Rebecca Rico-Hesse told LiveScience that the immune response is complex, but it may explain why mosquito-borne diseases spread so quickly.
"Viruses are probably hitching a ride in some of these immune cells that mosquito saliva is attracting to skin after the mosquito bites," she said. The fact that these cells are being activated for as long as seven days suggests that "viruses might escape immune system" destruction, she added.
In other words, the immune system is so busy dealing with the saliva left behind by the mosquito, it ignores viruses like Zika, Dengue and more. If scientists could figure out how that happens, it could lead to the ability to block all sorts of different mosquito-borne diseases and parasites.