Zika Could Be Sexually Transmitted

Zika Virus

News has come in from the U.S. to suggest that the Zika virus could be sexually transmitted (‘horizontal transfer from a non-mosquito source’, as some scientists have inelegantly described the event). This is case based on a man who had the virus seemingly passing it onto his partner.

This event is regarded as highly probable because the woman had not visited an area where there are mosquitoes and certainly not one where mosquitoes are infected with the Zika virus. The man had been to an area where Zika virus incidences have occurred (Venezuela).

Zika virus, as The Latest News has reported, causes fever and rashes in around 1 in 4 people. It presents a risk to unborn children in pregnant women by affecting the shape of the head of the child (a birth malformation called microcephaly that may also be associated with neurological symptoms). In Brazil, there have been almost 4,000 reported birth defects linked to women being infected with the virus.

The virus is (mostly) transferred by the Aedes mosquito. Such is the spread of the virus that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency on February 1, 2016. This is because the virus has now spread into over 20 countries in Latin America.

The case of possible sexual transmission occurred in Dallas, Texas, according to the BBC. The matter is being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In related news, French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur has announced the launch of a research drive to develop a Zika virus vaccine. It is hoped previous research into the Dengue virus will help, since both Zika and Dengue viruses belong to the same family (the Flavivirus genus) and they are spread by the same type of mosquito. Developing a vaccine will take some time, but it probably stands more chance of success than genetically engineering mosquitoes (designed not to carry the virus and letting them interbreed with mosquitoes that can carry the virus).

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.