HIV and Insect Transmission

HIV and Insect Transmission

Since the surge of the HIV epidemic there was concern about transmission of the virus by biting and bloodsucking insects. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and several Universities have shown no evidence of HIV transmission through insects, even in areas where there are numerous cases of AIDS and large populations of bloodsucking insects, such as mosquitoes.

There have been numerous efforts to detect such outbreaks in high-risk areas and no outbreaks have been found to exist. The CDC therefore supports the conclusion that insects do not transmit HIV.

The results of experiments by observation of insect biting behavior show that when an insect bites a person, it does not inject its own or a previously bitten person’s or animal’s blood. Instead it injects its own saliva, which serves as an anticoagulant so the insect can feed more effectively.

Tropical diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and dengue fever are transmitted through the saliva of very specific species of mosquitoes. West Nile virus, and encephalitis are not tropical and are found in Florida and even as North as New York City, and as far West as the Chicago area. Perhaps this is how people have been scared into believing that HIV could be transmitted by the bite of a mosquito.

HIV only lives for only a short time inside an insect if at all and, unlike organisms that are transmitted via insect bites; HIV does not reproduce (or survive) in insects. HIV never gets the opportunity to reproduce and move to the salivary glands of the mosquito, which is necessary for transmission. HIV also has never been found inside the insect’s feces. Therefore, even if the virus enters a mosquito or another sucking or biting insect, the insect does not become infected and cannot transmit HIV to the next human it feeds on or bites.

There is also no reason to fear that a biting or bloodsucking insect, such as a mosquito, could transmit HIV from one person to another through HIV-infected blood left on its biting apparatus. Two factors serve to explain why this is so: first, infected people don’t have constant high levels of HIV in their bloodstreams and second, insect mouth parts do not retain large amounts of blood on their surfaces for very long. In addition, scientists who study insects have determined that biting insects normally do not travel from one person to the next immediately after ingesting blood. Rather, they fly to a resting place to digest this meal.

By the way, the mosquito is a very dangerous insect and should be taken seriously. Mosquitoes and the diseases they disseminate have killed more people than any other insect. Even today, mosquitoes that transmit malaria kill two to three million people and infect another 200 million or more yearly. The diseases mentioned here are most often acquired outside of the United States.

Those of us who reside in Florida are aware of the dangers and reality of the potential transmission of West Nile virus and therefore take many precautions to avoid being bitten in the first place, but the risk of contracting HIV from a mosquito bite is zero to nil.

Keep in mind however, that the mosquito is considered one of the most dangerous insects on the planet. In Africa alone mosquitoes are responsible for infecting about 700 million people with disease, and killing two million more in their infectious path.

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