Zika On The Move

Zika Virus

There has been considerable coverage in the news recently about Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Unlike similar viruses with similar vectors, such as dengue, Zika is relatively under-researched. This is despite the first reported case of the virus being reported during the 1940s.

One of the reasons why Zika is a prominent discussion point in 2016 is due to an increase in incidents and a change to the geographical pattern. Due to alterations to climate patterns, cases are being detected in the U.S., for example. Warming temperatures means the migratory patterns of the carrier Aedes mosquito alters.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The virus is passed on through a bite from an infected mosquito, which leaves viral particles in the blood stream.

A concerning fact about Zika is a condition called microcephaly. This leads to babies being born with abnormally small heads and brain defects. There has been an increase in cases of this condition in Brazil, and the cause is linked to expectant mothers becoming infected with the disease. Brazil was the focal point of the most recent outbreak, which began in 2015. To date up to 1.5 million people in the country may have been infected.

In relation to the situation in Brazil, Uriel Kitron, chair of Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences, has stated:

“This is a huge public health emergency and horrible on many levels.”

He also added, in a call for more research and support into the condition:

“Zika is a game-changer. It appears that this virus may pass through a woman’s placenta and impact her unborn child. That’s about as scary as it gets.”

One problem is with laboratory diagnosis. Matthew Aliota, a research scientist in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine has called for research into better tests to diagnose the infection early. Without this, he thinks, controlling the spread of the disease will be more difficult.

Dr. Aliota is carrying out research see to how the virus evolves and adapts to its hosts. To outline this, and some of the epidemiological issue, Dr. Aliota is a co-author for a paper in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, titled “Detection of Autochthonous Zika Virus Transmission in Sincelejo, Colombia.”

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.

  • Victor Grayson

    This is a serious problem in South America.