Could synthetic biology be used to fight Zika virus and other emergent pathogens carried by mosquitoes? Andrew Maynard, Director of the Risk Innovation Lab, at Arizona State University, thinks so and discusses the possibilities in The Conversation:
“…infection-carrying mosquitoes are a global public health challenge, and the current spread of Zika is only emphasizing this. Using synthetic biology to prevent infection – either through vaccines or mosquito modification or elimination – would dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people. As Zika continues to spread – and if the suggested link with birth abnormalities is confirmed – synthetic biology could be one of our best hopes for containing and combating the disease.”
Read more in Maynard’s column in The Conversation.
Q What are the health effects of infection with Zika virus?
A Common symptoms are a mild fever, rash, conjunctivitis and muscle pain, but there is growing evidence that it causes serious problems for the unborn fetus, leading to microcephaly and other developmental problems.
Q Where did Zika virus come from?
A It was first identified in the Zika forest of Uganda
Q How do you catch it?
A Zika is usually transmitted through a bite from the Aedes mosquito (which also transmits dengue and chikungunya. Sexual contact has recently been found to be a possible tranmission route too.
Q Is there a vaccine against the virus or any drugs to treat it?
A Not yet
Q Is Zika lethal?
A It has not led to any deaths so far
Q Where can I find out more?
A Try the PAHO/WHO Zika FAQ for more detailed information