Living With Insect Bites

Biting Midge

European Biting Midge, Culicoides obsoletus

Most people find insect bites annoying. However, a group of scientists* have put insect bites to good use in a study of allergic reactions. Culicoides obsoletus, a European biting midge, causes a variety of reactions when it bites horses. Some animals respond to bites with Insect Bite Hypersensitivity (IBH) characterized by lesions on the skin. Other animals do not respond with IBH; their skin remains normal. What is the difference in the response?

Scientists* homogenized midges and injected the allergenic solution into Shetland ponies. They measured the response of the ponies’ immune system. Ponies that had a healthy response produced IFNγ-expressing CD4 T-cells (Type 1). Ponies that developed IBH responded by instead producing cytokine IL-4 T-cells (Type 2). This suggests that allergic reactions might be prevented by injection of an antigen in a way that teaches the immune system to produce a Type 1 (healthy) reaction rather than a Type 2 (unhealthy) reaction.

The use of insects to study diseases has increased due to the advent of molecular techniques and analysis. Such studies using insects may lead to better health.

*Meulenbroeks C, van der Lugt JJ, van der Meide NMA, Willemse T, Rutten VPMG, et al. (2015) Allergen-Specific Cytokine Polarization Protects Shetland Ponies against Culicoides obsoletus-Induced Insect Bite Hypersensitivity. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0122090. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122090

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Living With Insect Bites

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