How mosquito saliva could help scientists make a vaccine

May 22, 2018

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes after a blood meal.
Credit R. Rico-Hesse lab.

It’s not just the mosquito bite that’s a problem. When a mosquito bites you, it also drools on you.

Silke Paust is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“During this poking around phase, basically, and during the feeding, it automatically secretes saliva proteins," she says.

She says there are more than 100 proteins in mosquito saliva. Paust and her team found those proteins trigger a complex immune response.

“If we can identify proteins in mosquito saliva that are required for pathogen transmission generally, then we can perhaps develop vaccines for them,” she says.

She says the goal is to eventually make a vaccine that could work against several viruses mosquitoes transmit – like Zika or West Nile virus.