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Microplastics are transferred through mosquito bites and could make them more likely to spread viruses

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Mosquitoes are affected by microplastics throughout their lifecycle and pass them into the bloodstreams of mammals they bite, a new study has shown.

The research published in Science of The Total Environment also found that mosquitoes exposed to microplastics were more resistant to insecticides, showed a longer larval pupation, and had a lower adult body weight. Previous studies have suggested that microplastics, as environmental pollutants, may absorb insecticides due to their small particle size and large surface area.

Graphical abstract (Science of The Total Environment)

The study showed that abundance of the mosquito gut microbiome was perturbed by microplastics, especially a natural bacteria called Wolbachia, which makes it harder for the insects to reproduce.

Wolbachia also reduces a mosquito’s ability to transmit viruses like Zika, West Nile, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.

The researchers said this means microplastic exposure could exacerbate the transmission of arboviruses that Wolbachia inhibits.

“Mosquitoes can accumulate microplastics throughout their entire life from aquatic to terrestrial environments and can be transferred to mammals through mosquito bites, providing a new approach for delivering and enriching microplastics to humans in the ecosystem,” the researchers concluded.

“The compound impact of microplastics with insecticides should be emphasised as it significantly reduces the killing effect of pyrethroids, providing guidance for biological mosquito control under the increasingly serious microplastic pollution circumstance.”

Another recent study found much larger concentrations of nanoplastics in bottled water than previously estimated.

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