Mosquitoes: Nature’s Phlebotomists

December 14, 2012 at 10:36 am

By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin’s Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Ordinarily, a mosquito bite is just an annoyance with an itchy red spot and a lot of scratching involved. But those little creatures can transmit malaria (in known malarial areas) and the West Nile virus right here at home. It’s been particularly bad in Louisiana. According to their Department of Health & Hospitals, “So far, there have been 321 cases and 12 deaths from the disease reported this year.” Seven of these cases caused potentially fatal neuro-invasive disease, the most serious consequence of the virus.

Most infections of West Nile don’t cause any symptoms while some cause flu-like symptoms. The virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions, and in a sense, transfusions are what mosquitoes do. They bite one person with the virus, take in a little blood and then pass that blood around to the next person they phlebotomize without bothering to first test the blood for infectious diseases between donors…