We’ve all experienced it – that moment when you think, “what is that?” and then look down to realize that a mosquito, more formally known as Culicidae, has been using you for lunch. Naturally you swat them away, either hitting them or promising that you’ll get the mosquito next time; but after all of the ruckus dies down you begin to feel the worst part of the event…the itch.
In our first blog about mosquitoes we ventured into the fact that only female mosquitoes use human blood as their entrée of choice. This occurs because a female mosquito needs the protein from human blood in order to lay eggs and reproduce. This means that the mosquito, like most beings, have evolved to become very efficient at their task of reproduction.
In order to make sucking your blood as efficient and fast as possible, female mosquitoes inject you with their saliva through the proboscis that they use to begin the process of using your blood for their reproduction process, or you know, dinner. The saliva that is injected into your blood stream contains a mixture of anticoagulants that helps your blood flow more quickly, allowing the mosquito to retrieve a significant amount of blood before being noticed.
When you finally notice the mosquito in the act and swat her away, some of the saliva is left behind. That is when your immune system is triggered to respond to the presence of the foreign saliva now floating around in the site of the attack. Your body will produce many different antibodies, which will then bind to the antigens from the mosquito’s saliva. This process triggers the release of histamine. Histamine triggers an inflammatory response, causing the bright red, puffy mark where the bite occurred and ultimately the itch that you so desperately feel the need to scratch.