Saturday, December 09, 2006

HIV & Malaria in Africa: Does the Mosquito Spread Both

It is estimated that 40 million Africans are infected with HIV (UNAIDS)) whereas 300 million to 500 million suffer from malaria each year (World Health Organization). HIV is spread from person to person mostly by sexual contact, whereas malaria is spread by infected mosquitoes. The severe symptoms of malaria are caused by the tiny parasite Plasmodium falciparum and bring death to about 15 to 25% of those infected, dying when large quantities of infected red blood cells are destroyed in a single burst. HIV infection depletes immunologically important white blood cells causing AIDS, which results in death for most untreated patients. Interactions between antimalarial drugs and antiretroviral drug therapy can lead to an excessive risk of toxicity.

But can mosquitoes spread HIV?

With malaria the organisms survive and multiply in the insect, whereas HIV does not survive outside the body for very long, and it does not replicate in insects. Mosquitoes transmit malaria when they inject saliva into the victim. HIV does not get into the insect's saliva much and mosquitoes do not inject blood into the victim. Blood that remains on the bug's mouth or other body parts after it bites an AIDS victim also does not pose much risk, because the amount of blood present is very small, and the insect usually does not go directly from one feeding to another. (iVillage Health & Well Being) (About).

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