Dubai: As COVID-19 spreads, microbiologists and virologists are looking at ways in which the virus can be transmitted, with some possibilities that may have been overlooked. One of the questions pertains to whether the virus can be transmitted through insect contact, bites and blood?
Dr Sundar Elayaperumal, specialist microbiologist at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said there is no evidence to suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19, can be transmitted through blood directly or through insect bites. “This is a myth and so far not scientific. However, there is a chance that the common housefly might be a mechanical vector for the spread of the infection as the fly can sit on a contaminated surface and transmit it to another surface.”
However, Dr Elayaperumal added: “So far, as per scientific data available on the novel coronavirus, it primarily affects the respiratory system and is transmitted mainly through droplets of saliva when a person sneezes our coughs. It is not an airborne infection and remains in air for a few minutes before it lands on a plastic, paper, metal or wood surface and can live there for a long time. That is why there is so much insistence on wearing face masks, gloves, practising hand hygiene and maintaining social distance. There is no evidence to prove that this virus can be transmitted through the blood. It is a zoonotic virus (transmitted from animals). In this case, it’s the bat which is the main vector or carrier through which it cross jumped species to infect humans.”
No scientific evidence
Asked whether the virus caan be transmitted through insect bites such as mosquitoes or ticks, Dr Elayaperumal said that so far, there was no scientific evidence to support such a claim. “Many diseases such as dengue, malaria, eastern encephalitis and yellow fever can be transmitted through insect bites. That is because the virus can thrive and multiply in the gut of the mosquito or tick. However, so far we have no evidence that the novel coronavirus has the capacity to multiply in the mosquito or tick gut.”
Dr Fernanda Bonilla, Staff Physician, Infectious Diseases, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, seconds that.
“There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread through insect bites. While there are a number of diseases that can be transmitted through insect bites such as malaria or West Nile virus, COVID-19 is a respiratory infection and infections of this type have never been shown to be transmitted through blood.”
Dr Bonilla further added : “The primary mode of transmission is through contact with droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The best way for people to protect themselves from COVID-19 is to practise physical distancing, maintain hand hygiene and follow government advice.”