Mosquito vectors and the spread of cancer: an overlooked connection?


Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) represent a key threat for millions of humans and animals worldwide, vectoring important pathogens and parasites, including malaria, dengue, filariasis, and Zika virus. Besides mosquito-borne diseases, cancers figure among the leading causes of mortality worldwide. It is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million within the next two decades. Notably, there are few contrasting evidences of the relationship between cancer and mosquito-borne diseases, with special reference to malaria. However, analogies at the cellular level for the two diseases were reported. Recently, a significant association of malaria incidence with all cancer mortality in 50 USA states was highlighted and may be explained by the ability of Plasmodium to induce suppression of the immune system. However, it was hypothesized that Anopheles vectors may transmit obscure viruses linked with cancer development. The possible activation of cancer pathways by mosquito feeding events is not rare. For instance, the hamster reticulum cell sarcoma can be transmitted through the bites of Aedes aegypti by a transfer of tumor cells. Furthermore, mosquito bites may influence human metabolic pathways following different mechanisms, leading to other viral infections and/or oncogenesis. Hypersensitivity to mosquito bites is routed by a unique pathogenic mechanism linking Epstein-Barr virus infection, allergy, and oncogenesis. During dengue virus infection, high viral titers, macrophage infiltration, and tumor necrosis factor alpha production in the local tissues are the three key important events that lead to hemorrhage. Overall, basic epidemiological knowledge on the relationships occurring between mosquito vector activity and the spread of cancer is urgently needed, as well as detailed information about the ability of Culicidae to transfer viruses or tumor cells among hosts over time. Current evidences on nanodrugs with multipotency against mosquito-borne diseases and cancers are reviewed, with peculiar attention to their mechanisms of action.

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