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Partnership Leads to Discovery which Could Potentially Inhibit the Spread of West Nile, Zika and Dengue Viruses

December 04, 2019

A discovery by a Washington State University-led research team, which includes researchers from University of Idaho and University of Utah, has the potential to inhibit the spread of West Nile virus as well as Zika and dengue viruses. In a study recently published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers demonstrated that mammalian insulin activated an antiviral immunity pathway in mosquitoes, increasing the insects’ ability to suppress the viruses.

Mosquito bites are the most common way humans are infected with flaviviruses, a virus family that includes West Nile, dengue and Zika. In humans, West Nile and dengue can result in severe illness, even death, and Zika has been linked to birth defects when pregnant women are infected. Laura Ahlers, a recent Ph.D. graduate from Washington State University, was the study’s lead author. Other authors on the paper included Clement Chow of University of Utah, Shirley Luckhart and Brandi Torrevillas of University of Idaho as well as WSU Ph.D. candidate Chasity Trammell and WSU undergraduates Grace Carrell and Sophie Mackinnon.

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 12,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference. Learn more at