Livin' on the MDedge

Mosquitoes and the vicious circle that’s gone viral


These viruses want mosquitoes with good taste

Taste can be a pretty subjective sense. Not everyone agrees on what tastes good and what tastes bad. Most people would agree that freshly baked cookies taste good, but what about lima beans? And what about mosquitoes? What tastes good to a mosquito?

The answer? Blood. Blood tastes good to a mosquito. That really wasn’t a very hard question, was it? You did know the answer, didn’t you? They don’t care about cookies, and they certainly don’t care about lima beans. It’s blood that they love.

mosquito ©Mathisa_s/ThinkStock

That brings us back to subjectivity, because it is possible for blood to taste even better. The secret ingredient is dengue … and Zika.

A study just published in Cell demonstrates that mice infected with dengue and Zika viruses release a volatile compound called acetophenone. “We found that flavivirus [like dengue and Zika] can utilize the increased release of acetophenone to help itself achieve its lifecycles more effectively by making their hosts more attractive to mosquito vectors,” senior author Gong Cheng of Tsinghua University, Beijing, said in a written statement.

How do they do it? The viruses, he explained, promote the proliferation of acetophenone-producing skin bacteria. “As a result, some bacteria overreplicate and produce more acetophenone. Suddenly, these sick individuals smell as delicious to mosquitoes as a tray of freshly baked cookies to a group of five-year-old children,” the statement said.

And how do you stop a group of tiny, flying 5-year-olds? That’s right, with acne medication. Really? You knew that one but not the blood one before? The investigators fed isotretinoin to the infected mice, which led to reduced acetophenone release from skin bacteria and made the animals no more attractive to the mosquitoes than their uninfected counterparts.

The investigators are planning to take the next step – feeding isotretinoin to people with dengue and Zika – having gotten the official fictional taste-test approval of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who said, “You’re going to feed this #$^% to sick people? ARE YOU &%*$@#& KIDDING ME?”

Okay, so maybe approval isn’t quite the right word.

Welcome to bladders of the rich and famous!

Don’t you hate it when you’re driving out to your multimillion-dollar second home in the Hamptons and traffic is so bad you absolutely have to find a place to “rest” along the way? But wouldn’t you know it, there just isn’t anywhere to stop! Geez, how do we live?

That’s where David Shusterman, MD, a urologist in New York City and a true American hero, comes in. He’s identified a market and positioned himself as the king of both bladder surgery and “bladder Botox” for the wealthy New Yorkers who regularly make long journeys from the city out to their second homes in the Hamptons. Traffic has increased dramatically on Long Island roads in recent years, and the journey can now taking upward of 4 hours. Some people just can’t make it that long without a bathroom break, and there are very few places to stop along the way.

Vehicles in stop-and-go traffic National Park Service/Rawpixel

Dr. Shusterman understands the plight of the Hamptons vacationer, as he told “I can’t tell you how many arguments I personally get into – I’ve lost three friends because I’m the driver and refuse to stop for them.” A tragedy worthy of Shakespeare himself.

During the summer season, Dr. Shusterman performs about 10 prostate artery embolizations a week, an hour-long procedure that shrinks the prostate, which is great for 50- to 60-year-old men with enlarged prostates that cause more frequent bathroom trips. He also performs Botox injections into the bladder once or twice a week for women, which reduces the need to urinate for roughly 6 months. The perfect amount of time to get them through the summer season.

These procedures are sometimes covered by insurance but can cost as much as $20,000 if paid out of pocket. That’s a lot of money to us, but if you’re the sort of person who has a second home in the Hamptons, $20,000 is chump change, especially if it means you won’t have to go 2 entire minutes out of your way to use a gas-station bathroom. Then again, having seen a more than a few gas-station bathrooms in our time, maybe they have a point.


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