Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I think this problem should be asked in a physiology forum rather than biology@ stackex but I'll give it a try. So my question is simple - why a mosquito bite is usually confined to a certain shape (shape = red area) and not just disappearing continuously? Can our body cells tolerate some level of antigens without changing color from that?

share|improve this question
    
Question of physiology are very welcome to our site! There is even a often used tag for that. It is totally on-topic. –  Remi.b Apr 12 at 7:27
    
Some biological processes have a threshold response (or a steep hill equation). Perhaps that's what's happing here. –  Kevin Kostlan Jun 20 at 15:20

1 Answer 1

What you're referring to as a mosquito bite is actually the "wheal" (red swollen bump in the skin) that forms from an immune system reaction to antigens (foreign molecules) in the saliva of the mosquito that it leaves behind inside the bite. It's not technically a toxin, just something that causes an immune reaction.

It's also not an infection, it's inflammation. Infection might set in if the skin is scratched open and bacteria move in.

The reason it's red is that immune cells release cytokines (like histamine and that cause cause edema that leads to swelling, heat, itching, etc - and recruit other cells to do the same.

The cytokines that act locally have a range of effect, especially histamine. The degree of immune reaction determines the size of the wheal and how long it lasts. Scratching it contributes to irritation and can prolong resolution. Scratching it open can lead to infection.

share|improve this answer
1  
You are totally right but still haven't answered the question I asked. Why the red swollen bump in the skin in confined to just a certain area and not continuously decaying? –  Yair Apr 14 at 23:19
1  
I see your point that some wheals tend to have patterns (the most iconic one being the bullseye lesion of tick bites associated with lyme's disease). Demarcation of borders differs between individuals as well - not everyone has the same reaction to bites. In this image: visualphotos.com/photo/1x8722914/… you'll see the most common presentation of a mosquito bite wheal. The edges are not well demarcated; rather, there is a fade-away of erythema. This is as I mentioned largely a result of the limited range of inflammatory cytokines. –  Doctor Whom Apr 16 at 7:21

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.