It is still only recommended in the treatment of genital warts and certain skin cancers. But applied to the bite of a mosquito, this cream could significantly reduce the spread in the body of several viruses, say researchers at the University of Leeds.
Thanks to rising temperatures, increased global travel, and urbanization, mosquito-borne viruses are spreading worldwide at an alarming rate. But a simple skin cream might provide valuable protection… Leeds researchers explain how: https://t.co/qBVYoeaecm
– University of Leeds (@UniversityLeeds) January 23, 2020
Four targeted diseases
The cream acts as an alarm signal for the skin by activating a rapid immune response that fights infection. It prevents several viruses from advancing in the body. Scientists have studied four, all transmitted by the mosquito: zika, dengue, chikungunya and the West Nile virus.
"This study shows that a clinically approved and widely used skin cream has the potential to be used as protection against mosquito-borne diseases"Says Dr Clive McKimmie of the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds. "What is particularly encouraging with these results is that the cream is particularly effective against a certain number of viruses, without the need to target one in particular."
Up to 600 times less virus
This ointment, called "Imiquimod", still needs to be further tested to confirm its effectiveness and the absence of serious side effects, warn the researchers. "It is still too early to recommend its use "says Dr Kave Shams, consultant at the University of Leeds.
The tests were carried out on the skin of 16 volunteers and mice. After applying the cream in humans, the researchers found 600 times less of the infectious agent of chikungunya and 70 times less in the case of zika. In mice, the mortality rate is much higher when the cream has not been applied (65%) than when it has been (0%).