Can I Get HIV From a Mosquito Bite?

Understanding What HIV Transmission Risk Is

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J.J. Harrison

From the very start of the HIV epidemic, there have been concerns about the transmission of HIV through biting and bloodsucking insects, such as mosquitoes. It was a natural concern given that many diseases, such as malaria and Zika fever, are readily transmitted through insect bite.

However, this is not the case with HIV. Epidemiological studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection in Atlanta have shown no evidence of HIV transmission through mosquitoes or any other insects, even in countries with extremely high rates of HIV and uncontrolled mosquito infestations. The lack of such outbreaks supports the conclusion that HIV cannot be transmitted by the insects.

Why HIV Cannot Be Transmitted Through Mosquitoes

From a biological perspective, mosquito bites do not result in the blood-to-blood transmission (which would be considered the route of infection for a bloodborne virus like HIV). Instead, the insect injects saliva and anticoagulants which enable the mosquito to feed more efficiently. As such, blood itself is not injected from person to person, and that's important for a number of reasons.

While diseases such as yellow fever and malaria are readily transmitted through the salivary secretions of certain species of mosquitoes, HIV does not have the ability to reproduce or thrive in insects since there are no host cells (such as T-cells), which the virus needs to enable replication. Instead, the virus is digested within the mosquito's gut along with the blood cells on which the insect feeds.

Even if HIV were ale to survive for a short period of time, the minute quantity of virus that a mosquito might carry would make transmission invariably impossible. In order to ensure viability, it would take around 10 million mosquitoes to accrue enough virus to enable transmission.

Bottom line, HIV transmission can only occur under four specific conditions. If any of these conditions are not satisfied, the likelihood of infection is considered negligible to nil:

  • There must be a body fluid (blood, semen or breast milk) in which HIV can thrive. It cannot thrive in saliva, urine, sweat or feces.
  • There must be a route by which the virus can readily enter the body, either through vulnerable mucosal tissues or direct blood-to-blood transmission.
  • There must be ample quantity of HIV to effect infection. We know, for example, that the lower a person's viral load, the lower the risk of infection.

Under these conditions, HIV transmission through mosquito bites in considered impossible.

Types of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

While mosquitoes pose no threat of HIV transmission, there are other types of diseases associated with mosquito bites. Among them:

  • Chikungunya
  • Dengue
  • Eastern equine encephalitis
  • Filariasis
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • La Crosse encephalitis
  • Malaria
  • St. Louis encephalitis
  • Venezuela encephalitis
  • West Nile virus
  • Yellow fever
  • Zika fever

Mosquitoes are known to carry many classes of infectious diseases, including viruses and parasites.

Mosquitoes are estimated to transmit disease to more than 700 million people each yer, resulting in millions of resulting deaths. These disease outbreaks are most commonly seen in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America, where disease prevalence, temperate climates and lack of mosquito control provide greater opportunity for he spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

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