Insects Have STDs

Insects Have STDs. 

What It Might Mean For Humans

In 2013 National Public Radio (NPR) featured a research study on a bizarre STD found in crickets. The study, headed by Shelley Adamo and her team at Dalhousie University, focused on the virus called iridovirus and the effects of this cricket STD leaves many in the scientific community scratching their heads as to the biological implications.

Adamo, who uses crickets to explore the relationship between behavior and physiology, stumbled across the iridovirus when the entire study group of crickets became infected. Crickets, whose average lifecycle is three months, were dying within a manner of weeks after being infected. In addition to the truncated lifespan, she also discovered that the infected colony of crickets exhibited a change in mating behavior, which drastically increased during their last days and hours of life. Cricket autopsies also found that the virus turned the infected cricket’s guts blue.

The study was then isolated to explore how infected male cricket would respond to a female. The study showed that an infected male cricket would, on average, begin to “sing” its courtship song to a nearby female within three minutes compared to the standard ten minutes. That is a 42% increase in mating behavior. The virus does not only seem to increase the rate of mating behaviors, but it also appears to sterilize the female crickets. The then sterilized female cricket, whose energy is not spent on developing eggs, uses its energy is to continue mating behavior and the subsequent ongoing spread of the STD.

Interestingly, although the virus is spread among crickets through sexual activity, the virus is not transmitted through the genitals or the act of insemination. Instead, it is passed from one cricket’s antennae into another cricket’s mouth. But because this form of intimacy only occurs while crickets are mating the iridovirus is classified as a sexually transmitted disease. The similarity can be drawn to many human STDs, which are passed through the mouth and infected bodily fluids.

In terms of the relationship between the crickets being infected with an STD and their increased mating pattern, Adamo posits that it is likely a biological response. The inability to impregnate or become pregnant is a likely explanation for the increase in sexual activity as the crickets become desperate to fulfill the biological “script” of their lifecycle, or the crickets may sense they are sick and therefore rushed to make a last attempt in spreading their genes, in what Adamo refers to as “terminal reproduction investment.” Regardless of the direct cause, the virus is instilling an increased desire to mate in the crickets, and other studies are showing that the iridovirus also has the same effects on other insects.

What Does This Mean For Humans?

While the iridovirus, itself, has no risk of infecting humans, there are some implications in how many known STDs behave in the human body. Like the iridovirus, the transmission of STDs in humans is not limited to genital-to-genital contact. Almost all STDs can be passed through other sexual and non-sexual activities such as any skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or body fluid, oral sex, shared sex toys, needle sharing, and childbirth. 

The CDC announced in August 2018 that the rates of STD infection in the United States are at an all-time and critical high. The preliminary findings showed 2.3 million STDs among the American population. And those 2.3 million infections accounted only for what has been reported and diagnosed.

THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE AN STD IS TO GET TESTED

The majority of STDs are “silent” meaning that they exhibit little to no or confusing symptoms, which results in most STD infections being passed from one unknowing partner to the next in quick succession. With the rising popularity of dating and “hook up” apps, finding new and multiple partners increases the availability and radius for STD spread. 

The majority of STDs are spread by people who don't know they are infected. The only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested. Routine STD testing is one of the strongest defenses against the spread of STDs.

The only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested. Routine and preventative testing is one of the strongest defenses against the spread of STDs. To find out more about the testing services provided by STDAware, click here.

Similar to the crickets, humans do not loose sexual desires when they are infected with an STD. And, like the iridovirus, the most prevalent and common STDs in America, chlamydia and gonorrhea, do have the ability to leave the infected person sterilized in addition to causing other health complications. Whether or not these infections lead humans to desire sexual activity at an increasing rate or not has not been evaluated, although Adamo stated that there is currently no virus having this same impact on humans as the iridovirus has on crickets. 

Still, the rates of STD infection have skyrocketed, and the American “hook-up” culture is commonplace and a virtual petri dish for infectious disease. Additionally, both chlamydia and gonorrhea have a very high risk of re-infection (meaning the infection returns even after being treated or the infected individuals become re-infected easily by subsequent sexual contact). Repeat infections by either of these STDs could lead to antibody resistance, and the CDC has already expressed concerns over growing “super strains” of gonorrhea and the lesser known STD called Mycoplasma Genitalium or MGen. The inability to treat these types of infections could have a far-reaching and devastating impact on the sexual health of the nation and the world at large.

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While chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common STDs in America, right now, the CDC estimates that only one out of every seven people who are infected with HIV know it. And the symptoms for syphilis can often be so mild and confusing that diagnosis does not occur until devastating medical complications are presented. Hepatitis A, B, and C can also result in devastating physical damage before being actively symptomatic. Except for HSV-1 & HSV-2 (oral and genital herpes respectively), which are exceedingly common and present minimal medical risks, the majority of STDs can result in critical health complications. These health risks vary from infertility, developing certain types of cancer, pelvic disorders or pelvic inflammatory disease, complications in pregnancy, inflammation of the eyes, joints, spinal column, vital organ degeneration or failure and heart disease (Mayo Clinic, 2017) , swelling of the brain, to long-term health problems and even death.

Because the majority of STD infections are passed by unknowing individuals, the risk of infection is increased making routine STD testing a vital factor of self-care. Medical experts agree that routine screening is one of the strongest defenses against the spread of STDs. 

STDAware allows individuals to control how and when they are tested for STDs. The STDAware digital health platform is revolutionizing how individuals access sexual health services and care. To find out more about how to get tested at STDAware, click here.

THE ONLY WAY TO TREAT AN STD IS TO IDENTIFY IT THROUGH TESTING

Early identification is vital to the successful treatment, control, and containment of any STD condition. Most STDs can be cured when caught early and adequately medicated (meaning following the doctor’s orders). STDs that cannot be cured can be managed and allow infected individuals to live a full and satisfying life.

STDAware provides treatment, at no additional cost, to any of their patients who are diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital herpes. It is important to note that being diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, or genital herpes increases one’s risk of contracting HIV and early detection testing should be considered at the same time as testing for any of the STDs mentioned earlier.

STDAware offers full panel and individual testing options and has over 4,000 testing laboratory locations, nationwide. Testing is quick and non-invasive. To learn more about how STDAware makes getting testing for STDs simple, fast, and convenient, click here.

So What Can Be Done?

Reducing the rate and type of STD infection in animals and insects is a zoological challenge because you cannot teach them to practice safe sex or use condoms. Insects and animals will continue to mate according to the biological factors presented which can include weather changes, the availability of food, as well as illness and viral infection. 

Humans, however, CAN be educated in the practices of safe sex and preventative STD testing. STDAware is committed to providing excellent educational resources and information and believes that with increased awareness, routine STD screening, and safe sex practices, the sexual health and overall well-being of the country can be significantly improved.

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To visit STDAware, no-cost resource library, click here.

Medical communities will continue to research and test animals in hopes of improving and finding solutions and treatment to help fight life-threatening sexually transmitted diseases in all life forms. In the meantime, STDAware will continue to work toward the continual increase of sexual education, provision of resource and services. STDAware prides itself on offering the highest quality STD testing services and solutions that are convenient and accessible. To find out more about how simple and easy getting tested at STDAware can be, click here.

STDAware Cares!

The caring and knowledgeable advice counselors at STDAware are available to speak with you and answer any of your STD questions. Contact us toll-free: 1-855-588-6958 or email: customerservice@stdaware.com

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