Aedes albopictus

Sooo, I had a couple beers tonight...

(Arrogant Bastard IPA and Stoudt’s Oatmeal Stout, to be exact)

And proceeded to babble on about the most random entomological bullshit in the world to my mother, who lovingly accommodates and pays attention to me even when I’m a moron.

Topics discussed:

How cool-looking Phantom Crane Flies (Family Ptychopteridae) are.
 

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That virulent mosquito strains seem to be increasing (Aedes aegipty, Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Aedes albopictus, and Culex spp.).

Specifically, that I fucking hate Asian Tiger Mosquitoes (A. albopictus), and that they give me quarter-sized welts when I get bitten by them (although they look pretty badass)

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And how common midges often get confused for mosquitoes, but that you can tell the difference between the two by looking for the cool feathery antennae on midges.

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I can hear Uppitylittlehomo in the background screaming “HOW THE FUCK DO YOU GET LAID / HAVE ANY FRIENDS” riiiight abooout now.

Hah. 

KON-ICE: le zanzare di merda.

Colgo il trend per dirvi che il 50% di tutti gli esseri umani che hanno vissuto sul pianeta terra dalla notte dei tempi è stato ucciso dalla malaria.

E da parecchi altri batteri, virus e parassiti trasportati da questa silenziosa e letale Puttana dell’Apocalisse.


Voi non dovreste proprio aver paura di ragni, vespe e serpenti ma delle Culicidae in tutte le sue 3450 varianti di specie.

Ma che cosa rende letale questo dittero vampiro?

Il fatto che l’evoluzione lo ha fatto diventare una piastra di Petri volante cioè un contenitore eccelso affinché i patogeni che hanno imparato a farlo (per fortuna relativamente pochi) possano replicarsi all’interno di esso, raggiungere le ghiandole salivari ed essere nuovamente iniettati nella preda successiva.

Il Plasmodium (falciparum, vivax, ovale e malariae) è uno sporozoo ma esistono decine di altre infezioni che la zanzara può trasmettere.

Tra le più diffuse:

  • il virus della febbre gialla
  • la dengue 
  • la chikungunya
  • il west nile virus
  • la febbre della Rift Valley 
  • la febbre del Ross River
  • l’ecefalite di St. Louis
  • l’encefalite giapponese
  • il parassita della filariosi linfatica
  • la tularemia

Ma come si può intuire anche dai nomi, ognuna di queste infezioni è epidemica in uno o più luoghi specifici del nostro pianeta perché trasmissibile solo da un certo tipo di zanzara che ha trovato le condizioni climatiche adatte alla propria sopravvivenza. Le uniche zone esenti dal rischio di trasmissione infettiva sono l’Alaska, la Groenlandia, la Siberia, l’Artide e l’Antartide… grazie al cazzo, zanzare di merda muorite nel gelo.

Come quella stronza della Zanzara Tigre (Aedes albopictus) ha dimostrato, ogni tanto può succedere che una specie considerata nostrana (Culex pipiens) sia praticamente soppiantata da una non autoctona che ha maggiori capacità di adattamento (le femmine di Aedes si nutrono per tutto il giorno per suggere le proteine per le loro uova e hanno bisogno di meno acqua per deporle) ma la natura funziona così: noi plasmiamo l’ambiente a nostro favore e lei ci ringrazia con nuovi cancheri.

L’Anopheles (quella della malaria) l’abbiamo debellata grazie a LVI che ha bonificato la maggior parte delle paludi italiane e ha sparso tonnellate di DDT (grazie Benny&co per aver selezionato specie resistenti agli insetticidi) ma come si può vedere dalla mappa sottostante, si tratta di una partita a Risiko

Dove spostare i carrarmati è solo una questione di opportunità e convenienza ambientale, quindi di tempo.

Per alcune malattie esistono vaccini che è bene facciate solo e soltanto qualora decidiate di visitare i paesi in cui l’infezione è endemica, mentre per la malaria nessun vaccino ma solo una nauseante (letteralmente) terapia profilattica per tenervi coperti mentre le zanzare pasteggiano con voi (no, il chinino non si usa più).

Per ciò che riguarda quello che ognuno di noi può fare a casa propria (e senza che questo suoni come una chiamata alle armi contro l’apocalisse zanzombie), si tratta semplicemente di montare zanzariere o tenere la zanzariera modello coloniale sul letto, fare disinfestazioni periodiche con tempi e modi appropriati (ricordate Benny?) e… TOGLIERE QUEL CAZZO DI CONTENITORI PIENI D’ACQUA ABBANDONATI IN GIARDINO DOVE LE ZANZARE VANNO A DEPORRE LE UOVA!

Per concludere, la natura non sta cercando di ucciderci.

Siamo troppo insignificanti in questa partita di backgammon giocata con milioni di dadi per essere qualcosa di più di una delle migliaia di varianti sperimentali di prove di evoluzione. Ce la stiamo cavando, certo, ma quasi tutte le specie su questo pianeta se la stanno cavando meglio di noi e le centinaia di miliardi di zanzare ronzanti sul pallido puntino blu lo dimostrano egregiamente. 

Stiamo umili e con lo sguardo basso e forse arriveremo sani al Primo Contatto.

Zika Outbreak Updates: Puerto Rico Declares State of Emergency

As the Zika virus outbreak continues, including in wide swaths of Central and South America, concerns are growing, especially for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been linked with a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “global health emergency.”

Puerto Rico Declares State of Emergency

Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak. The U.S. territory has at least 22 people who have been reported to have been infected with the Zika virus, health officials said.

The State Emergency and Disaster Administration is creating a task force for both federal and state officials to deal with the crisis.

Additionally, a price freeze has been ordered for products needed to prevent the disease, according to government officials.

New Zika Virus Cases Include Pregnant Woman, Man With Paralysis Syndrome

In Puerto Rico, a pregnant woman in her first trimester was diagnosed with the disease, health officials said. In addition, a man has also been diagnosed with Zika and has developed a rare paralysis syndrome sometimes associated with viral or bacterial infection.

Called Guillain-Barre syndrome, it is an immunological reaction that has been associated with influenza, among other illnesses.

At least 22 people who have been reported to have been infected with the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, health officials said.

FDA Signals New Recommendations on Blood Transfusions Likely

In a statement to ABC News, officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they intend to “rapidly implement appropriate donor deferral recommendations” to safeguard the donated blood supply in the U.S.

“Blood donor deferrals serve as an important measure to protect the United States’ blood supply,“ FDA officials said in a statement. "The FDA also intends to put in place recommendations to help maintain a safe blood supply in United States territories where the virus is present. In the meantime, we fully support the blood banking industry’s voluntary recommendations that potential blood donors be deferred for 28 days after returning from travel to areas where Zika is endemic.”

Sexually Transmitted Zika Case Prompts CDC to Issue New Guidelines

After the Zika virus was transmitted through sexual contact in Dallas, Texas, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines today for travelers to and from outbreak regions.

The CDC advises men with a pregnant partner to use condoms if they have traveled to an area with "active Zika virus transmission.”

Additionally, couples where a male partner who has traveled to an area with Zika transmission “may consider using condoms consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sexual activity,” if they are concerned about sexual transmission of the Zika virus.

At Least 54 People Infected in the U.S.

There are at least 54 people infected with the Zika virus in the U.S. In all except one case, the infection was acquired while out of the country, according to health officials.

In one case in Dallas, Texas, the virus is believed to have been transmitted through sexual contact from an infected traveler to a partner.

Florida has the highest number of cases in the U.S., with 12 people infected. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in five counties and ordered thousands of tests that will help identify the disease.

What Does the Virus Do?

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.

The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases.

The CDC is also investigating if a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre is related to the virus. The syndrome is an immunological reaction that can also occur after other viral or bacterial infections.

How Is It Transmitted?

The virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. This is the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue fever. The Aedes albopictus species has also been identified as a potential carrier.

Before the current outbreak, the virus had been found mainly in tropical settings in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. An outbreak of the disease in Brazil led to an alert by the Pan American Health Organization last May.

US reviews plan to infect mosquitoes with bacteria to stop disease

The United States could soon become the first country to approve the commercial use of a common bacterium to fight the spread of mosquitoes that can transmit viruses such as Zika, dengue and Chikungunya.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing an application from the biotechnology start-up MosquitoMate to use the bacterium Wolbachia pipientis as a tool against the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). The company plans to market Wolbachia as a pesticide — one that kills only mosquitoes, and leaves other insects untouched. The EPA’s decision on the matter will come after a public-comment period that ends on 31 May.

Nature 533, 450–451 (26 May 2016) doi:10.1038/533450a

Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria are unable to produce offspring. Jodi Holeman

Is the mosquito menace growing in the UK?

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Mosquitoes aren’t something you’d consider to be particularly hazardous in the UK.  Annoying as hell, absolutely.  That high-pitched mozzie drone is enough to keep you awake at night.  And if like me you react rather badly to a mosquito bite then yep, they can be painful.  But hazardous to our health?

There are 34 species of mosquito in the UK, five of which are non-native and have been inadvertently introduced to these shores from other countries.  However, aside from the charmingly titled ‘nuisance biting’, none of these species pose a real health risk to humans.

BUT…..there are species lurking on the European continent that DO transmit diseases.  The worry is that as our climate warms, these species will find Britain an agreeable place to live and will start colonising from the south northwards.  Certainly the run of wet summers interspersed with hot dry periods are perfect conditions for mosquitoes.

The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus, pictured above) is one notable species of concern.  Known to carry West Nile virus, Yellow fever and dengue, it has been spotted recently in Belgium.  The Health Protection Agency is continually monitoring its progress, but you’d have to reason that it’s only a matter of time before it shows up in large numbers in the south of England.

Original BBC article.