Why does the bite of a mosquito itch so much?

Shutterstock.com/ MIA Studio

One of the most annoying things in the world is the mosquito. While no one likes being bitten by a shark, clawed to death by a bear or eating by a lion, we understand that it is part of the natural world we live in. These predatory animals are vital to the ecosystems they live in and if we are foolish enough to get in the way, we deserve to be eaten. Yet the mosquito does very little good for anyone. It may provide a little bit of food for some animals, but other flies could do that. Let’s face it all mosquitos have ever done is at best make people itch and at worst spread an incredible amount of disease. The world would be better off without them.

Every year 250 million people get malaria with around 1 million dying from the disease. In addition to malaria, mosquitos spread dengue, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya and more. They are also incredible pests. They are known to form such large swarms in the Arctic Tundra that they can choke the native deer of Alaska. Even the ones that do not carry diseases are pests, they take our blood and leave us with an itchy bite for a week!

The reason that a mosquito bite itches so much is that they do not just take some of your blood, they leave something behind as well. When the mosquito takes your blood a small trace of its spit is left in your body. This is why we can contract a disease from mosquitos (they are the equivalent to sharing a dirty needle). People are essentially allergic to the proteins of a mosquito’s spit. 

A new study on mice has shown that certain parts of the body continue to react to this bite for up to a week, explaining why an itchy bite can some times last for ages. The scientists are not just interested in making mosquito bites less itchy, they are trying to stop the fatal diseases from spreading. The scientists believe that if a virus is part of a mosquito’s saliva it may attach itself to the immune cells that come to fight off the allergy in the body. If scientists can figure out how to stop the reaction to the proteins of the mosquito they may be able to nullify the transmission of any disease from a mosquito.

This could mean that mosquitos would still be pretty annoying as they would continue to bite us but they would not cause nearly as many fatalities as they do today. Today mosquito nets are seen as one of the most effective forms of charity. For the dollars you donate it will go the furthest towards saving a person’s life. $10 will often buy a mosquito net for someone who badly needs one and their life may be saved. It is difficult to think of any other disease that is as rampant as the ones mentioned earlier that could be stopped at just $10.

The work being done by Rebecca Rico-Hesse and her colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine will be incredibly helpful in stopping the spread of some of the worst diseases in existence today. However, the deaths continue to grow for now. In the short term, we must help poorer countries battle the issues that mosquitos bring. As at present we haven’t found a way to kill them all off without greatly impacting our ecosystem, we will have to settle for the next best thing, the mosquito net. Find out if there is a collection near you today or go online to donate towards mosquito nets. This ensures that your charity dollars are going as far as possible to save a life.