Our sweet tooth is making mosquitoes sick which is not good news

insulin crushing a mosquitoWe already know, notwithstanding, it is somewhat begrudgingly, we act like the ATM for the average mosquito. When the time is right, the female mosquito zooms around in search of a warm fleshy human, to make a substantial blood withdrawal from.

She does have to dodge the security guards, quick hands which can squish her, but for the most part, getting the goodies to create her next batch of eggs, is just a matter of finding a suitable ATM. And there are lots of them.

The ATMs are paying out more than they used to.

Humans providing a bonus pay out

Despite the increased distribution of these mobile pay points, mozzie’s are taking strain. The strain is chemical, but it is not because of the foul smelling creams and candles, which often surround potential blood donors. The problem comes AFTER THE BITE.

Since time began, humans have been passing on a nasty bug, Plasmodium, along with the blood meal. For the mosquito unfortunate enough to suck on a human infected with the malaria parasite, the consequences have been a mild irritation, not unlike the common cold.

Not enough to kill, but enough to leave the mozzie feeling a bit under the weather.

Mozzie flu

The mozzie response to the presence of this unexpected human derived invader, is to mount a robust immune response. First prize, to kill the intruder or if this is not possible, subdue it. Sharing precious resources with a parasite, is extremely wasteful and in the long run, not good for the mosquito.

But modern mozzies seem to be losing the battle against these Plasmodium invaders. The modern mosquito’s immunological resistance to the malaria parasite, is weakening – their immune systems are depressed.

Plasmodium not just tougher

The continued spread of Plasmodium among humans is attributed to the parasite becoming progressively more cunning and tougher.

The development of anti-malarial drugs, such as chloroquine, allowed man to rein supreme for a short period of time. But, some time in the 1970s, a parasite or two, worked out how to eat chloroquine for breakfast – from that moment forth, these parasitic pests has been flexing their biochemical muscles.

As new anti-malarials are developed, the parasite evolves the ability to survive and thrive in its presence.

Millions of lives are lost and impacted by malaria infection every year. The malaria parasite is a wily tough opponent.

But, there is more to the malaria problem than tough Plasmodium parasites.

Mosquitos are getting weaker

Now, there will be many who will argue, that just like the Plasmodium parasite, the mosquito has become a lot hardier. The modern day mosquito is often not very sensitive to a range of insecticides sprayed around. But being tough on the outside, does not translate to being tough on the inside – modern mosquitos are wimps on the inside.

And it is our fault – humans are eating too much sugar.

Too much insulin makes mosquitoes sick too

The more sugar we consume, the more insulin our body has to pump out to keep our sugar levels within acceptable ranges. Continuously high insulin levels are bad news for mosquitoes.

NOTE : They’re not particularly healthful for humans either, causing all sorts of problems from pimples to diabetes.

According to researchers from the University of California Davis, the insulin which is sucked up by the mosquitoes, when they feed on individuals with hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels), disrupts signalling within the mosquito.

Insulin pathways inside mosquitos

Human insulin activates the insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway inside the Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, switching on a whole lot of genes.

The genes it tweaks are those involved in keeping the mosquito’s immune system primed – so the mosquito ends up being more vulnerable to malaria invasions.

Rein that insulin in for the sake of humanity

The rate of type 2 diabetes is climbing in the developing world, where malaria is already a BIG PROBLEM.

More diabetes, means more hyperinsulinemia – more human insulin, means mosquitoes’ will not be able to fight malaria infections, thus aiding and abetting transmission of this dreaded disease

Rein in insulin – it is pretty easy to do, just cut the carbs. But, now you know it won’t just be good for you, it will be good for humanity too.

Ingested Human Insulin Inhibits the Mosquito NF- B-Dependent Immune Response to Plasmodium falciparum. Infection and Immunity, 2012; 80 (6): 2141. N. Pakpour, V. Corby-Harris, G. P. Green, H. M. Smithers, K. W. Cheung, M. A. Riehle, S. Luckhart.
 

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Further reading

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