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'Good' Mosquito Virus Fights Human Disease, New Study Finds

First Posted: Nov 20, 2015 11:36 AM EST

Researchers have identified a new mosquito-carried virus, known as the Parramatta River virus, which can be used to fight human viruses, according to a collaborated study at the Universities of Queensland and Sydney in Australia.

The new finding could enable scientists to development new ways for preventing outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease, according to Dr. Jody Hobson-Peters, of UQ's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

"Viruses are typically viewed as harmful. This discovery highlights how little we know about mosquitoes and their relationships with pathogens," Hobson-Peters said, in a news release. "Rarely do we consider that some viruses may hold the key to fighting back against human disease."

Thousands of people become sick each year due to mosquito-related viruses. In 2007, the Parramatta River virus was discovered in mosquitoes in a salt mash in Sydney. The Parramatta River virus does not cause any harmful health risks to humans, they only infect mosquitoes, according to the researchers.

"The presence of Parramatta River virus or other similar 'good' viruses in a mosquito may make it harder for the human disease-causing 'bad' viruses to also infect that mosquito, thus stopping disease transmission," Hobson-Peters said.

By examining the mechanics behind mosquito-borne viruses, researchers have a greater chance of preventing outbreaks of mosquito-based diseases. Breeanna McLean, a coauthor of the study developed a new system that effectively screens thousands of mosquitoes that carries the virus.

"It's incredibly exciting that we detected Parramatta River virus using our new virus discovery system," McLean said. "Never before have we been able to assess mosquito populations for novel viruses so easily."

The findings of this study were published in the journal Virology.

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