People with Low Iron Levels in Blood Likely to Transmit DengueDiet & Fitness

September 17, 2019 15:59
People with Low Iron Levels in Blood Likely to Transmit Dengue

(Image source from: The Indian Express)

This month, most of the Indian states are seeing an unprecedented surge in dengue cases with doctors saying that climate change is the chief cause. But then, a recent study revealed that people with low iron levels in the blood are more likely to spread the deadly dengue virus.

The study suggests that patients taking iron supplements during the illness may limit the transmission of mosquito-borne viral infection.

Dengue fever, a disease spread mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito causes fever, rashes, and terrible aches, and can also lead to shock and death.

At first, Dengue fever was widespread in Asia and Latin America but currently about half the world’s population is at risk including tropical and sub-tropical regions. If left untreated, the fever can turn deadly. Though there is no specific treatment against dengue, only early detection, and proper medical care can save a life.  

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 390 million cases of the disease every year.

Read: Fast Food Availability Linked with More Heart Attack Cases

Published in the journal Nature Microbiology, the study says that dengue patients with higher levels of iron in the blood had lesser chances of infecting mosquitoes that draw their blood with the virus.

The researchers led by Penghua Wang of the University of Connecticut collected blood samples from healthy human participants and added dengue virus to each sample as they wanted to see if the quality of a dengue patient’s blood had an impact on the spread of dengue virus.  

The research team found a number of variations when they fed the blood to mosquitoes and checked how many of the mosquitoes were infected from each batch.

Wang and his teammates found that the variation was linked closely with the level of iron in the blood. He said the more iron in the blood, the fewer mosquitoes were infected.

Besides, the researchers also found the same results when using a mouse as a sample. They found that anemic mice were more likely to transmit the virus to mosquitoes that fed on their blood.

The research team noted that this was due to the immune systems of the mosquitoes.

According to researchers, gut cells of mosquitoes take up iron from their blood feed and use it to produce reactive oxygen, which kills the dengue virus.

Wang explained that dengue was rife in areas where iron deficiency was also more common. However, he added that the findings don't necessarily explain the high prevalence of dengue in those areas.

But it could be possible that iron supplementation could cut down dengue transmission to mosquitoes in those areas, Wang added.

However, the researchers added that there was a caution. They warned that malaria, caused by the plasmodium parasite and transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, was common in the same areas as dengue, but the malarial parasite thrived in iron-rich environments.

The research team added that malaria may turn out to be more prevalent in such areas if everyone is supplementing with iron. They cautioned that public health authorities must weigh the costs and benefits before starting population-wide iron supplementation programs.

By Sowmya Sangam

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