By John McDevitt

by John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers at Penn Vet are working on three new studies to potentially treat and even prevent viruses in animals and humans.

One lab’s focus is understanding the inner workings of the mosquito, the vector of Zika.

“Mosquitoes, for them to transmit the disease, they first have to first become infected themselves,” said Dr. Michael Povelones with Penn Vet.

Experts say Mosquitoes have a very powerful immune systems. To resist infection, the insects’ robust innate immune responses kick in within minutes of being exposed to pathogens.

Dr. Povelones is trying to understand why that happens.

“Bacteria, the natural gut bacteria of the mosquito, influences the anti-viral defense system of the mosquito,” said Dr. Povelones.

He says understanding the basic mechanism of the insect’s immune response to these pathogens is crucial to unravel before moving forward.

“Just trying to understand the natural resistance mechanisms that mosquitoes have, and possibly down the line engineering mosquitoes that are refractory of carrying these diseases all together,” said Dr. Povelones.