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Can a mosquito bite be good for you?

Mosquito bites are an annoyance that most people want to avoid. The itching and swelling can be irritating, and in some cases mosquitoes can transmit dangerous diseases like malaria, Zika, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. However, scientists have recently been investigating whether mosquito bites could potentially have some health benefits as well.

Does a mosquito bite provide any benefits?

Research has shown that mosquito saliva, the substance that causes the reaction to a mosquito bite, may have some positive impacts on our immune system. When a mosquito bites you, it injects saliva into your skin. This saliva contains proteins that can provoke an immune response from your body.

While the immune response is what causes the itching and swelling associated with mosquito bites, it may also help strengthen your overall immune function. The proteins in mosquito saliva appear to activate certain key immune cells, like natural killer T cells and macrophages. This activation can enhance immune surveillance and potentially improve your ability to fight infections.

Mosquito saliva and allergies

Some evidence suggests that mosquito saliva may help regulate the immune system in ways that could reduce allergic reactions. In mice studies, exposure to mosquito bites prevented the development of asthma-like symptoms and reactions to allergens like pollen.

Researchers theorize that mosquito proteins may stimulate immune cells that suppress allergic responses. So while mosquito bites cause a reaction at the bite site, the saliva may actually dampen other immune reactions happening elsewhere in the body.

Mosquito saliva and tumors

Early research also hints that compounds in mosquito saliva could help control tumor growth. A 2015 study found that injecting mice with mosquito saliva inhibited the progression of skin cancer tumors. The saliva triggered an anti-tumor immune reaction involving increased activity of natural killer cells.

Scientists need to do much more research to determine if this anti-tumor effect could potentially occur in humans after mosquito bites. But it raises intriguing questions about unexpected health benefits from these bothersome insects.

Risks of mosquito-borne illnesses

Despite some promising areas of research, mosquito bites do come with significant risks that overshadow any potential benefits. Mosquitoes can transmit extremely serious diseases that pose a much greater hazard to your health than the bites themselves.

Mosquito-borne illnesses that occur in the U.S. include:

  • West Nile virus
  • Eastern equine encephalitis
  • Western equine encephalitis
  • St. Louis encephalitis
  • La Crosse encephalitis
  • Dengue fever
  • Chikungunya
  • Zika

Mosquitoes transmit these viruses and parasites by biting an infected animal or person and then biting another person. Globally, mosquitoes spread extremely serious diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and lymphatic filariasis.

Disease transmission statistics

Here are some key statistics on mosquito-borne diseases in the United States:

Disease Annual cases
West Nile virus 2,647 (2020)
Dengue 5,000-10,000 estimated
Zika 224 (2015-2017 outbreak)
Eastern equine encephalitis 7 per year on average
Western equine encephalitis Less than 1 per year

As these statistics demonstrate, mosquito-borne illnesses cause thousands of cases each year in the U.S. and can sometimes be fatal. So the dangers of mosquito bites are real and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Should you get bitten for immunity?

While the research on potential health benefits of mosquito saliva is intriguing, there is no reason to purposefully get bitten in an attempt to derive immunity or other benefits.

Scientists caution that the immune-stimulating and anti-tumor effects observed in animal studies may not occur in humans after occasional mosquito bites. More research is needed to fully understand if and how mosquito saliva could positively impact human health.

The number of bites required to produce any significant effect on the immune system is also unknown. Given that mosquito-borne diseases can be transmitted starting with a single bite, purposefully getting bitten clearly poses unnecessary risks.

Researchers collect mosquito saliva for study under highly controlled conditions to avoid inadvertent disease transmission. You should not collect mosquito saliva or get bitten for DIY health experiments.

Protection from mosquito bites

Until more definitive research is done on the potential upsides of mosquito saliva, the smartest approach is to avoid getting bitten when possible. Here are some effective ways to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Install window screens on your home.
  • Remove standing water sources from your yard.
  • Use mosquito traps and other control measures.

Protecting yourself and your family from diseases like West Nile virus and Zika should be the priority when it comes to mosquito bite precautions. While recent research on the complex immune interactions caused by mosquito saliva is promising, purposefully getting bitten is extremely inadvisable given the risk of severe illness.

Key points

  • Mosquito saliva may have some beneficial effects like enhancing immune function and suppressing tumors.
  • But mosquito bites can transmit dangerous diseases like West Nile, Zika, dengue, and malaria.
  • More research is needed to understand the potential health impacts of mosquito saliva.
  • You should not purposefully get bitten, as the risks of disease transmission outweigh unproven benefits.
  • Focus on preventing mosquito bites through repellents, protective clothing, and control measures.


The idea that mosquito bites could be helpful for your health may seem counterintuitive. Mosquitoes have a well-deserved bad reputation as nuisances and transmitters of disease. However, scientists have identified plausible ways that compounds in mosquito saliva could stimulate the immune system and suppress tumor growth.

This fascinating area of research is in its early stages and has so far only been demonstrated in animal models. Any possible health benefits from mosquito bites remain unproven. And these hypothetical upsides are far outweighed by the very real risks of contracting serious illnesses like West Nile virus, dengue, Zika, and malaria from infected mosquitoes.

While the prospect of deriving immunity from mosquito bites is interesting, it remains unsafe and unwise to purposefully get bitten. Your best bet is to continue using repellents, protective clothing, and other precautions to avoid getting bitten. With more research, scientists may one day isolate the beneficial compounds in mosquito saliva for medicinal use – without having to get bit!