Can Mosquitoes Carry AIDS?

Caused by the HIV virus, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is often transmitted through sexual contact or by contaminated hypodermic needles. As exposure to the blood of an infected person may transmit the infection, many people wonder if mosquitoes can carry AIDSsince they feed on human blood. So, what is the truth? Can a mosquito bite cause AIDS?

Can Mosquitoes Carry AIDS?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there is no scientific evidence that mosquitoes can carry AIDS – the same is true for other insects even in areas where there are large populations of mosquitoes and many cases of AIDs.

They Are Not Like Flying Hypodermic Needles

While it seems that the snout of a mosquito is like a needle, it is not. It actually has six mouthparts, four of which help pierce the skin of the animal or person. The other two parts have two tubes, one of which helps suck blood and the other sends saliva into the host. Can mosquitoes carry AIDS? No, they cannot because they only inject saliva into humans when biting, not blood.

They May Not Have Enough Particles of HIV

Statistically, it is highly unlikely that a mosquito would ingest enough particles of HIV to infect another person. People with HIV do not have more than 10 unites of HIV circulating in their blood, which means the chances are low that a mosquito would ingest enough particles of the virus. Research shows that even if a person has 1,000 units of HIV virus circulating in their blood, there is a 1 in 10 million chance that the mosquito would transmit a single unit of these particles to the host. In simple words, you have to be bitten by 10 million mosquitoes that have been feeding on infected individuals to become infected too.

They Digest the Virus

Another reason why mosquitoes cannot carry AIDS is that they digest the HIV virus. HIV is not able to replicate in a mosquito's gut. When HIV is present in humans, it binds to T cells. However, T cells are absent in mosquitoes; thus HIV cannot replicate or travel to the salivary gland. As a result, the HIV particles are completely digested.

This is not the same as other mosquito-exploiting parasites that can evade the digestive enzymes in mosquitoes. Most parasites grow in the mosquito's stomach, while others have ways to protect them against the enzymes. For instance, the malaria parasite often hides in a network of proteins made by the mosquitoes to protect beneficial bacterial in the gut. In other word, the parasite makes use of a mosquito's own defense to deceive the immune system.

How does AIDS Transmit?

Can mosquitoes carry AIDS? No, but what transmits it then? Certain activities increase your risk of becoming infected with HIV. For instance:

Having Sexual Contact That May Involve Vaginal Fluids, Semen, or Blood

If you engage in vaginal or anal sex with someone who already is infected, your chance of becoming infected are very high. In vagina, penis, and anus, HIV can enter through sores and cuts. These cuts may be too small to be noticeable but are usually large enough for the transmission of infection. The virus can also transmit through the mucus membranes.

Having Oral Sex

Although the risk is low, it is still possible to become infected with HIV after having oral sex. In other words, you can become infected if you have HIV-infected vaginal fluid, semen, or blood in your mouth. While the virus can transmit through oral sex, the risk is low mainly because it cannot survive well in the mouth.

Having Blood Contact Through Drug Needles and Blood Transfusions

Can mosquitoes carry AIDS? No, but what about blood contact? Sharing needles with someone who is infected for injecting is a very high-risk activity. Injection needles can easily pass blood from an infected person to another. Similarly, receiving HIV-infected blood after an accident is another way of becoming infected with HIV.

From Mother to Baby

Although it has become rare in the United States, it is still possible for a mother with HIV to infect the fetus. There are certain medications available to lower the risk, but an HIV-infected mother can still transmit the virus before or during birth, or even through breastfeeding. The virus is present in breast milk, although in small amounts, but it can still infect an infant.

Fluids That Do Not Transmit HIV

It is important to bear in mind that though HIV transmit through bodily fluids, some bodily fluids are not infections. You do not become infected by being exposed to the saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or feces of an HIV-infected person.

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