Prevention is best for dengue fever and rickettsial illness

Both diseases are more common in disadvantaged communities, where people are more likely to be exposed because of factors like employment, socioeconomic status, and a lack of understanding about how to avoid infection.

Prevention is best for dengue fever and rickettsial illness
Preventative measures are the most effective way to lessen the impact of dengue and rickettsiosis. Photo by Angela Handfest / Unsplash

The weather conditions of the summer season are favorable for the increase in the reproduction of the vectors that transmit dengue (Aedes aegyptiy mosquito) and rickettsia (Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick), explained Rogerio Sotelo Mundo, an academic at the Center for Research in Food and Development (CIAD).

According to reports from health authorities in Sonora, both diseases have had an increase in cases in recent months, as it is estimated that the increase in rainfall favors the presence of both insects.

The best way to counteract this situation is to redouble efforts to follow the instructions of governmental campaigns on cleanliness and hygiene in the home to avoid the reproduction of the vectors.

Eliminating uncovered water deposits such as containers or puddles is one of the recommendations, as these are ideal places for mosquito breeding. Likewise, taking care of the hygiene of our pets and keeping the walls of our home clean is a strategy to avoid the arrival of spotted fever or rickettsiosis to our home.

An inter-institutional collaboration

Sotelo Mundo added that the research team he heads at the Biomolecular Structure Laboratory of the Coordination of Food Technology of Animal Origin at CIAD, together with Karina García Orozco and Ana Carolina Gómez, in collaboration with Julia Estrella Munguía, Julio García Puga and Ramón Robles Zepeda, academics from the University of Sonora (Unison), is currently focused on research for the development of molecular diagnostic methods.

"Currently there is no vaccine for either disease. However, our research team is looking for a technology to detect the disease early, mainly in vulnerable populations, which are usually the most affected by dengue and rickettsia," he said.

Julia Munguía Nolan, an academic from the postgraduate program in Health Sciences at Unison, who is a member of the research group, added that in Sonora both diseases are more recurrent in vulnerable populations, mainly because their risk is increased due to factors such as their work and socioeconomic situation and the lack of knowledge of prevention measures.

"It is commonly believed that the tick can only affect dogs; however, scientific evidence indicates that 90% of the life of this insect is manifested outside the host, that is, in humans, mammals or outdoors," added the researcher.

Fumigation not very effective

Although it is a common practice in municipalities, fumigation is not an effective method to combat mosquitoes and ticks, as there is scientific support indicating that these invertebrates develop resistance genes intergenerationally. "Unfortunately, similar to what we have seen with variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, these vectors become resistant to pesticides and chemical products," said the CIAD professor.

CIAD has a line of research that seeks natural compounds to eliminate bacteria, fungi and harmful fauna, which are less toxic to humans and the environment, and at the same time do not allow the development of resistance in pests. However, in the specific case of dengue and rickettsia, for now prevention is the best option to avoid infestation.

Communication through the different native languages that exist in the state is a transdisciplinary tool in which they have worked to deliver valuable preventive information to these communities; this with the collaboration of Professor Zarina Estrada Fernandez and her team from the Department of Literature and Linguistics of the Unison.

Finally, as an advance of the ongoing research project, it has been possible to identify that in the case of dogs there is a molecular response to being bitten by a tick, since it was found that they develop an immune reaction. "Soon we will begin to identify this susceptibility in populations of Sonora that have been exposed to spotted fever, where we will evaluate in a transdisciplinary way social, economic and health-related factors to analyze the situation in different regions," he concluded.