Author Interviews / 16.12.2021 Interview with: Professor Ooi Eng Eong Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases Duke-NUS Medical School Professor, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health National University of Singapore Co-director, Viral Research And Experimental Medicine Centre What is the background for this study? Response: The emergence of Zika virus as a cause of fetal developmental disorder, or congenital Zika syndrome (CZS), mirrors the impact of congenital rubella syndrome on public health. Congenital rubella syndrome was controlled through the development of a live attenuated rubella virus vaccine that, when given to young children, elicited long-lasting immunity that protected against rubella well into adulthood. Indeed, live viral vaccines cause subclinical infection to elicit immunity that approaches those that develop following wild-type viral infection. However, the boundary between attenuated and virulent Zika virus has not been clearly defined, making development of any live attenuated Zika virus vaccine risky. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dengue, PLoS, Zika / 04.02.2021 Interview with: Gregor J. Devine, Ph.D Mosquito Control LaboratoryQIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Brisbane, Queensland, Australia What is the background for this study? Scale of the problem: Dengue, Zika and chikungunya are all transmitted by the same mosquito species.  That mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is superbly adapted to the human, urban environment – it lays its eggs and develops in the standing water that collects in the myriad containers associated with modern living (plastic bottles, food packaging, buckets, planters, crumpled tarpaulins etc.). Unusually they rely almost entirely on human blood for their nutritional requirements and they subsequently bite multiple times during each egg laying cycle. That reliance on human blood means that they are usually found resting indoors, a behaviour that also offers them some protection from weather extremes and predators. Once infected, and having incubated the virus until it is transmissible, a mosquito that survives for just a couple of weeks can infect many humans within the same and neighbouring households. In poorer tropical urban environments with dense human populations, unscreened houses, no air-conditioning, and innumerable rain-filled containers to develop in, Aedes aegypti proliferates and so do those diseases, causing ca 400M annual infections of dengue alone by some estimates. The economic impact of the dengue, which normally causes a high fever, muscle and joint pains and nausea, is pronounced; especially in poor households with few savings and no welfare system. Every year, about 500,000 of those dengue cases develop into severe dengue, or dengue haemorrhagic fever (typified by plasma leakage, severe bleeding and organ impairment). There are about 25,000 deaths annually. mosquito-Aedes aegypti-feeding-human.jpgThe Zika pandemic of 2015-2016 resulted in 1000s of babies born with microcephaly and damage to their brains and eyes. For 1000s of other children, the impacts of Zika on their cognitive development did not manifest in their first, formative years.  Chikungunya is endemic in Asia and Africa but between 2010 and 2014, outbreaks and epidemics spread across the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. It causes severe, often debilitating joint pain in infected patients. Those affected also suffer from headaches, fever, severe muscle pain and conjunctivitis. Joint pain can persist in subacute or chronic form for several months or even years, particularly in older patients. The ubiquity of the mosquito Aedes aegypti across the tropics and sub tropics ensures that further epidemics of Zika and chikungunya will occur, outside their usual ranges. It’s simply impossible to predict when that will occur. (more…)
Author Interviews, Global Health, JAMA, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, UCLA, Zika / 21.01.2019 Interview with: Karin Nielsen-Saines, MD, MPH Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA What is the background for this study? Response: Our study used a very simple evaluation called GMA (General Movement Assessment tool) which checks baby movements at approximately 3 to 5 months of age. We examined 111 babies exposed to maternal illness during the Zika epidemic in Brazil and 333 control babies without this exposure by GMA at 3 months  and then tested them through standard neurodevelopmental tests at the age of 12 months. We found that this simple evaluation, which consists of filming a baby lying down on their back for one minute and studying their movements worked extremely well in predicting which babies would or would not have future problems in their neurodevelopment. The study advances knowledge in the area because a simple one minute video of a baby can predict neurodevelopment, something that is extremely hard to determine in young babies.  This is true even in places where sophisticated brain scans are available. By identifying which babies are at risk of developmental problems early on, professionals can rapidly refer these babies to  stimulation programs when they are very young, which increases their chances of having better outcomes. Because the brains of young children respond much better  to stimulation, the timing of interventions to improve their development is very important, that is why they need to be identified early. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Infections, Zika / 17.06.2018 Interview with: “Bromeliad” by Selena N. B. H. is licensed under CC BY 2.0André Wilke, Ph.D. Post Doctoral Associate Division of Environment & Public Health Department of Public Health Sciences University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Clinical Research Building Miami, Florida 33136 What is the background for this study? Response: As vector-borne diseases pose an increasing public health threat to communities in South Florida and elsewhere, a new study led by public health researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has revealed that ornamental bromeliad plants contribute to breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito—a key culprit for the Zika outbreak that hit Miami-Dade County and other areas of Florida and the Americas in 2016. In addition to Zika, bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito can cause dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya. Zika has been linked to microcephaly and other birth defects in unborn babies when pregnant women contract the disease. The family of diseases linked to the Aedes aegypti can cause other severe symptoms. Yellow fever can be fatal. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, JAMA, Neurological Disorders, Zika / 31.05.2018 Interview with: Dr. Emilio Dirlikov, PhD Office of Epidemiology and Research, Puerto Rico Department of Health Epidemic Intelligence Service Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development CDC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: After reporting local Zika transmission in December 2015, the Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDH), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and University of Puerto Rico began identifying cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), testing specimens, and conducting follow-up telephone interviews after patients left the hospital. Through these efforts, we were able to characterize acute clinical features and long-term disability of GBS associated with Zika infection by analyzing data from GBS patients with and without evidence of Zika infection. This investigation increases scientific and medical understanding of Guillain-Barré syndrome following Zika infection, provides insight into the disease processes involved in GBS following Zika infection, and adds to growing evidence of a causal association between Zika and GBS.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Global Health, NEJM, Zika / 15.03.2018 Interview with: Professor Bruno Hoen, M.D., Ph.D Dept of Infectious Diseases, Dermatology, and Internal Medicine University Medical Center of Guadeloupe What is the background for this study? Response: Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy has been identified only recently to cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, other brain defects, and the congenital Zika syndrome. However, the magnitude of this risk was not clearly defined, with discrepancies between observational data from Brazil and the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry. We implemented a cohort study of pregnant women who have been exposed to ZIKV throughout the outbreak that hit the Caribbean in 2016. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Neurological Disorders, University Texas, Zika / 07.03.2018 Interview with: Slobodan Paessler, D.V.M., Ph.D. Professor, Department of Pathology; Director, Galveston National Laboratory Preclinical Studies Core; Director, Animal Biosafety Level 3, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity; Member, Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Zika virus infection is associated with various developmental issues for human embryos such as reduced head growth, reduced brain tissue growth, and damage to brain or eyes. We wanted to better understand if some of these birth defects are caused directly by the Zika virus or maybe by the host response to infection. In our study we demonstrate that the Zika virus infection induces autoimmune response against the C1q protein. This protein is a very important immune protein as well as one of the essential proteins for healthy brain development. Attacking the C1q protein upon exposure with the Zika virus could contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders and birth defects.  (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, NYU, PLoS, Zika / 23.02.2018 Interview with: Maite Sabalza Ph.D Post Doctoral Associate Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology College of Dentistry, New York University New York, NY 10010 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: With previous NIH funding we were able to develop an automated “dual assay” (able to detect both host antibodies and viral RNA) for HIV. In relatively short time, we were able to migrate those findings into the new assay for ZIKA Virus. (more…)
Author Interviews, PLoS, Sexual Health, Zika / 16.02.2018 Interview with: Yogy Simanjuntak PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Institute of Biomedical Sciences Academia Sinica, Taiwan What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Despite the low case fatality, Zika virus infection has been associated with microcephaly in infants and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Primarily transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, Zika also can be sexually transmitted in humans. By August 2016, the sexual transmission of Zika had been documented in 11 countries worldwide and most of the cases were from male to female. Infectious Zika in semen has been reported. Moreover, unlike in serum or urine samples, Zika RNA can still be detected in semen up to 188 days after the onset of symptoms. In the absence of approved antiviral drugs or vaccines for Zika infection, preventing the disease transmission is critical. We observed Zika progressively damaged testes by gaining access to testicular cells including sperm. Notably, Zika caused signs of increased testicular oxidative stress and inflammation, characterized by high levels of reactive oxygen species and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Our data indicate that these factors may contribute to testicular damage as well as successful sexual transmission of Zika; thus, we speculate antioxidants might display beneficial effects to alleviate these disease outcomes. We found that antioxidant ebselen both alleviated testicular damage and prevented sexual transmission of Zika via sperm from infected male mice to uninfected female mice. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, JAMA, Neurological Disorders, Zika / 17.10.2017 Interview with: Emilio Dirlikov, PhD Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer CDC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In December 2015, Puerto Rico Department of Health (PRDH) reported its first confirmed locally acquired case of Zika virus disease. In February 2016, PRDH reported the first person diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) who also had evidence of Zika virus infection. At the time, scientific evidence of the potential association between Zika virus infection and GBS was lacking, and rigorous studies were needed. Through a collaboration between PRDH, CDC, and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), we conducted a case-control study to determine risk factors for GBS during the 2016 Zika virus epidemic. By prospectively enrolling case-patients, we shortened the time to enrollment, increasing the likelihood of detecting Zika virus nucleic acids to confirm Zika virus infection. As a result, we found that an acute Zika virus infection confirmed by laboratory testing is a risk factor for developing Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is the first case-control study to find laboratory evidence showing this given the difficulty of confirming Zika virus infection among people diagnosed with GBS. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Cancer - Brain Tumors, Zika / 07.09.2017 Interview with: Milan G. Chheda, MD Assistant Professor Department of Medicine Oncology Division Molecular Oncology Department of Neurology Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Glioblastoma is an extremely aggressive brain tumor. Most patients die in less than two years. A longstanding challenge has been killing tumor cells that are inherently resistant to our current therapies (radiation and chemotherapy). These cells, called cancer stem cells, are extremely hardy. A longstanding dream of oncologists has been to devise a way to find them and kill them. The public health epidemic in 2015 made Zhe Zhu, post-doctoral fellow in Jeremy Rich’s lab, wonder whether Zika virus could work on cancer stem cells, that share properties with stem cells in fetal brain. Zika virus doesn’t cause significant problems in adults. We took a lesson from nature and tested Zika virus. (more…)
Author Interviews, Nature, Zika / 14.04.2017 Interview with: Dr. Jikui Song PhD Assistant professor of biochemistry University of California, Riverside. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Recent outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) has become a wordwide health concern. However, no vaccines or antiviral drugs against ZIKV are currently available. To explore potential druggable sites for ZIKV, we set out to determine the crystal structure of full-length ZIKV NS5, the molecular machinery responsible for the genomic replication of ZIKV. The major findings of our study include the identification of a conserved domain conformation within flavivirus NS5 family, which may be important for functional regulation of flavivirus NS5. Furthermore, our structural analysis revealed a potential drug-binding site of ZIKV NS5, providing basis for future development of novel antivirals against ZIKV. (more…)
Author Interviews, Zika / 31.03.2017 Interview with: Daihai He PhD Department of Applied Mathematics The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hung Hom, Kowloon Hong Kong (SAR), China What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Zika virus disease has large outbreaks in many Pacific and American countries in 2016, and the outbreaks are still on-going. Our work is conducted against this background. We compared data from three localities: French Polynesia in 2013-2014, Colombia and Brazil in 2016. We found that in French Polynesia the infection attack rate (i.e. the proportion of the population who got infected) is about 3/4, which matched previous serological studies. We then make estimation for the other two place. We found that the infection attack rate in Colombia in 2016 was most likely less than 50%. For Bahia province of Brazil, we did not arrive at a very accurate estimation, as the confidence interval is wide, and our best estimate is 30%. The relatively low infection attack rate in Colombia and Brazil implies that future outbreaks of Zika virus diseases are still possible. Thus control and surveillance efforts should be continued. (more…)
Author Interviews, Neurological Disorders, Zika / 19.02.2017 Interview with: Ping Wu, MD, PhD John S. Dunn Distinguished Chair in Neurological Recovery Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Cell Biology University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX 77555-0620 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Zika viral infection poses a major global public health threat, evidenced by recent outbreaks in America with many cases of microcephaly in newborns and other neurological impairments. A critical knowledge gap in our understanding is the role of host determinants of Zika-mediated fetal malformation. For example, not all infants born to Zika-infected women develop microcephaly, and there is a wide range of Zika-induced brain damage. To begin to fill the gap, we infected brain stem cells that were derived from three human donors, and found that only two of them exhibited severer deficits in nerve cell production along with aberrant alterations in gene expression. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, NEJM, Zika / 16.02.2017 Interview with: Gabriela Paz-Bailey MD PhD Senior Epidemiologist Centers for Disease Control and Prevention What is the background for this study? Response: Zika virus is recognized as a cause of microcephaly and other severe birth defects when a woman is infected during pregnancy. Additionally, it has been associated with potentially fatal complications, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is not well understood how often Zika virus particles can be detected in semen and other body fluids and for how long they remain detectable. Existing evidence is based on case reports and cross-sectional observations, primarily from returning travelers. A more comprehensive description of the dynamics of the early stages of Zika virus infection, observed within infected people over time, is needed to inform diagnostic testing as well as prevention recommendations and interventions. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, UCLA, Zika / 20.12.2016 Interview with: Karin Nielsen, MD, MPH Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Director, Center for Brazilian Studies What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our research was a prospective study in which pregnant women in Rio de Janeiro who developed a rash in the last 5 days between the end of 2015 to mid 2016 were screened for possible infection with Zika virus by a special molecular test (PCR) which looked for the virus in blood or urine. Women who were found to have Zika virus in either blood, urine or both were followed throughout time to look for pregnancy and infant outcomes. We also followed women who had a negative PCR test for Zika as a comparison group. By July 2016, we had outcomes known for 125 Zika affected pregnancies, of these 58 had abnormal outcomes, with 9 fetal losses and 49 babies who had abnormal findings on physical exam or brain imaging, all consistent with neurologic abnormalities. This meant 46% of the pregnant women in our study had an abnormal pregnancy outcome, and 42% of live birth infants were found to have an abnormality in the first few months of life. (more…)
Author Interviews, Radiology, Zika / 25.08.2016 Interview with: Fernanda Tovar Moll, MD, PhD Vice president of the D'Or Institute for Research and Education Professor,Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro, Brazil What is the background for this study? Response: The consequences of congenital zika virus infection are still under investigation. Recent studies suggest microcephaly as one of the consequences, but we wanted to go deeper in investigating what other kinds of neurological changes could happen in the developing central nervous system. Based on that, we performed a cohort study with multimodal images exams and longitudinal follow up (pre and post natal analyses) of some cases. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, OBGYNE, Zika / 04.08.2016 Interview with: Charlan D. Kroelinger, PhD Division of Reproductive Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion CDC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Doctors have also found other problems in pregnancies and among infants infected with Zika virus before birth, such as absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Increased access to birth control may lead to reductions in unintended pregnancies, which may result in fewer adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes in the context of a Zika virus outbreak. A new report from CDC estimates that use of highly effective, reversible forms of birth control, called long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), which includes intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, remains lower than use of moderate or less effective methods such as oral contraceptive pills and condoms, although contraception use varied across states and by age group and race/ethnicity. CDC scientists used data from four state-based surveillance systems to estimate contraception use for non-pregnant and postpartum women at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually active female high school students who live in states with the potential for local Zika virus transmission. Less than one in four sexually active women of reproductive age and fewer than one in 10 sexually active female high school students reported using LARC. A higher percentage of postpartum women reported LARC use. Moderately effective and less effective contraceptive methods, including pills, patches, rings, injections, condoms and other barrier methods, were used more frequently than highly effective methods. These estimates are of concern because the most commonly used methods of contraception are not as effective at preventing unintended pregnancy. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, Zika / 16.07.2016 Interview with: Dr. Martin Cetron, MD Director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine What is the background for this study? Response: According to the Brazilian Tourism Board, approximately 350,000 – 500,000 international visitors and athletes from 207 countries are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This travel volume represents a very small fraction – less than 0.25% – of the total estimated 2015 travel volume to Zika-affected countries. CDC conducted a risk analysis to predict those countries at risk for Zika virus importation exclusively attributable to the Games. (more…)
Author Interviews, NEJM, OBGYNE, University Texas, Zika / 26.06.2016 Interview with: Abigail R.A. Aiken, MD, MPH, PhD Assistant Professor LBJ School of Public Affairs University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX, 78713 What is the background for this study? Response: As Zika began to emerge as an epidemic in Latin America and its links with microcephaly began to be realized, we were aware that women in the region who were already pregnant or who would become pregnant would have a very limited set of reproductive options. Research and media attention about the possible biological effects of Zika in pregnancy began to appear rapidly. But much less attention was been paid to the impacts of Zika on women. We followed the responses of governments and health organizations and when they began to issue advisories warning women to avoid pregnancy, we knew it would be important to investigate the impacts of those advisories. A country-wide policy that is impossible to follow if you are pregnant or cannot avoid pregnancy is an unusual and important public issue. Accurate data on abortion are very difficult to obtain in Latin America because in most countries, abortion is highly restricted. We wanted to provide a window on the issue of how women were responding to the risks of Zika and its associated advisories, so we worked with Women on Web (WoW), an online non-profit telemedicine initiative that provides safe medical abortion to women in countries where safe, legal abortion is not universally available. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, Zika / 08.06.2016 Interview with: Andrea M. Bingham, PhD Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance Coordinator Florida Department of Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bingham: Since its introduction to Brazil in 2015, Zika virus has spread throughout the Caribbean and South and Central America. We are constantly learning new things about Zika virus, including its potential for sexual transmission and its ability to cause certain birth defects such as microcephaly. Because many states, including Florida, have mosquito vectors that can potentially be infected with Zika virus, being able to identify infected people is important to ensure proper response and control measures are put in place to prevent local introductions. Improving testing capacity helps ensure that we have the ability to rapidly detect local Zika virus introductions if they occur. On the basis of previous small Zika fever case studies that reported positive testing of patient urine and/or saliva samples, the Florida Department of Health made the decision to collect multiple specimen types from persons with suspected acute travel-related Zika fever in order to determine the most sensitive and efficient testing algorithm. Testing performed at our state public health laboratories in Tampa and Jacksonville suggested that urine was the most useful specimen for identifying acute Zika fever infections. Zika virus real time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing conducted on urine and serum samples collected the same day from 66 travel-associated Zika fever patients, detected Zika virus in nearly twice as many urine samples (61) as serum samples (31). Viral RNA was also detectable in urine longer than in serum. Although a high percentage of saliva samples also tested positive, no additional cases were identified through saliva testing alone. Based on these results and those of the small case studies, CDC updated their guidance to include urine as a recommended specimen type for testing of patients with suspected acute Zika fever. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, BMJ, Radiology, Zika / 14.04.2016 Interview with: Maria de Fatima Vasco Aragao MD, PhD Radiologist and Neuroradiologist Professor of Radiology, Mauricio de Nassau University, Recife, Brazil Scientific Director of Multimagem Radiology Clinic, Recife - PE, Brazil President of Pernambuco Radiology Society What is the background for this study? Response: The new Zika virus epidemic in Brazil was recognized as starting in the first half of 2015 and the microcephaly epidemic was detected in the second half of that same year. What are the main findings?
  • Response:  In our study of the 23 mothers, only one did not report rash during pregnancy (rash is a sign that can happen in Zika virus infection). However, Zika virus infection can be asymptomatic in three of every four infected patients. All of the 23 babies had the same clinical and epidemiological characteristics and other congenital infection diseases had been excluded. Of these 23 babies, six were tested for IgM antibodies, specific to Zika virus and all six proved positive. So, by deduction, the other 17 babies on whom it was not possible to make the IgM test, were considered as also having presumed congenital infection related to the Zika virus, after other congenital infections being excluded.
  • All the babies showed malformations of cortical development and sulcation.  The most frequent cortical malformation were: Microcephaly with a simplified cortical gyral pattern and areas of thick cortex of polymicrogyria or pachygyria which were located predominantly in the frontal lobes.
  • Abnormalities of the corpus callósum (hypogenesis and hypoplasia) were common.
  • Decreased brain volume was a common finding. Ventriculomegaly was present in all the babies, with a predominant enlargement of the posterior portions of the lateral ventricles,
  • Delayed myelination were also common. The cisterna magna was enlarged in most of the cases, with or without cerebellar hypoplasia.
  • Some of the babies showed a symmetrical enlargement of the anterior subarachnoid space of the supratentorial compartment, associated with severe ventriculomegaly.
Author Interviews, Dengue, Zika / 25.02.2016 Interview with: Prof Paul Dyson Institute of Life Science Swansea University Medical School Singleton Park Swansea UK Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Dyson: The spread of insect-vectored viruses such as Dengue and, more recently, Zika, underline the urgent necessity to develop new technologies to control insect disease vectors that, due to human activity, are spreading globally. The concept of using RNAi in insects is not new and is widely used as a research tool in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. However, adapting RNAi for use in non-model insects has been slow, almost entirely due to the problem of delivering interfering RNA to the insect. Manual injection is a less than optimal means of delivery for larger insects, while including interfering RNA in a food source can be effective in smaller insects in the laboratory. But neither delivery system is suited for field applications of RNAi as a biocide. Faced with this challenge, we (myself and Dr Miranda Whitten) conceived the concept of symbiont-mediated RNAi and have advanced it with support from the UK BBSRC and the Gates Foundation, establishing it as a viable mechanism of delivery of RNAi in (a) a tropical disease vector, Rhodnius prolixus, a vector of Chagas disease, exemplified by targeting insect fertility, and (b) a globally invasive vector of plant disease, Western Flower Thrips, targeting larval growth. Interfering RNA is actively produced by symbiotic insect bacteria that multiply within the host. Critical to the technology is to ensure the stability of RNA synthesis by these bacteria. The interfering RNA is then released by the bacteria, absorbed and systemically circulated within the host, thereby causing knock-down of gene expression in specific tissues. We have exploited this technology to severely impair fertility of Rhodnius prolixus, and to cause mortality of developing larvae of Western Flower Thrips. As a biocide, the technology offers exquisite specificity due to the co-evolution and co-dependencies of the symbiont and its insect host, combined with the sequence-specificity of the RNAi. Moreover, development of resistance is highly improbable. (more…)
Author Interviews, Nursing, Zika / 10.02.2016 Interview with: Nancy Dirubbo, DNP, FNP, FAANP, Certificate in Travel Health, American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Fellow Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) President of the Board Medical Research: Can you provide some background on what is the Zika virus? Response: Zika virus was first found in monkeys in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947 during a research project on mosquito borne viral diseases. From Africa, it spread to India, Indonesia and South East Asia over the next 20-30 years. Not much attention was paid to this illness, as it is often asymptomatic (perhaps as much as 80% of all cases). It causes few symptoms in adults (mild rash, conjunctivitis and headache) and so is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as other self-limiting, viral diseases. Then fast forward to 2015, when a sudden increase in infants born in Brazil with microcephaly occurred and a connection was made with a sharp increase in Zika viral infections, even though the direct mechanism for causing this birth defect is not known. In 2014, there were less than 150 cases of microcephaly in Brazil, and by October 2015, there were 4,700 cases reported. Medical Research: What is the concern regarding pregnant women and their babies? Response: The concern for pregnant women is that there appears to be a link between Zika virus and microcephaly, still birth and miscarriages. Children who do survive have severe intellectual disabilities. The virus is most often transmitted by mosquitos, but may also be sexually transmitted. According to the CDC, “Sexual transmission of Zika virus is possible, and is of particular concern during pregnancy. Current information about possible sexual transmission of Zika is based on reports of three cases.” The CDC also recommends, “Men who reside in or have traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission who have a pregnant partner should abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex (i.e., vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse or fellatio) for the duration of the pregnancy.” It has yet to be determined if Zika virus can be transmitted in other ways, including blood transfusions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Technology, Zika / 03.02.2016 Interview with: Christopher Bibbs Anastasia Mosquito Control District Florida Medical Research: What is the background for this report? Mr. Bibbs: In vector management, the uphill battle is always against the mosquito. And of those, the anthropophilic Yellow Fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, has become established world-wide as a vector of several emergent diseases. Historically, these mosquitoes carried Yellow Fever and to this day still carry Dengue. Chikungunya, a newly established virus in the Caribbean, has joined the western hemisphere since 2014. And most recently, Zika virus made its way to Brazil and others in South America during 2015. This mosquito thrives in the United States as well, and should a traveler visit a country suffering from these disease and return home sick they risk passing it along to the representative mosquito in your home country. In order to manage these risks, vector management programs employ an integrated approach using multiple techniques and surveillance tools. But oft-neglected are what is available over-the-counter to consumers wanting relief. One such tool is called "spatial repellents." By vaporizing a minute amount of chemical into the air, it creates a flight barrier to the mosquito. The mosquito, upon encountering this vapor, will become disoriented and leave the area, thusly reducing bite contact. But as yet these tools are exclusively considered as repellent. But is that all they do?   (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, UCSF, Zika / 31.01.2016 Interview with: Mary E. Wilson, MD Visiting Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Population Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Boston, Massachusetts  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: Zika virus infections are spreading explosively in the Americas. This flavivirus infection, spread by Aedes mosquitoes, is new to the Americas, so the majority clinicians have little knowledge of the infection and its potential complications. The country most affected so far is Brazil, where more than a million infections have been reported in less than a year. Infection has also spread to at least 20 other countries in the Americas (the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America). Prior to 2007 Zika virus was known to cause infections only in Africa and Asia. Since then, it has spread and caused epidemics in Micronesia, French Polynesia, Easter Island, and since 2015 in Brazil. Most of the movement of the virus from one region to another is via travelers who are infected and then are bitten by mosquitoes in a new region. In Brazil an increase in cases of infants born with microcephaly (small head) has been noted coincident with the Zika epidemic, and the virus has been recovered from amniotic fluid and from fetal tissue, suggesting that Zika infection during pregnancy may cause microcephaly in the developing fetus. An increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome has also been observed during this and previous outbreaks. Studies are underway to determine if Zika virus is the cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome.In Brazil an increase in cases of infants born with microcephaly (small head) has been noted coincident with the Zika epidemic, and the virus has been recovered from amniotic fluid and from fetal tissue, suggesting that Zika infection during pregnancy may cause microcephaly in the developing fetus. An increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome has also been observed during this and previous outbreaks. Studies are underway to determine if Zika virus is the cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Most countries in the Americas, including the United States, are infested with types of mosquitoes that are competent to transmit the virus, but weather conditions also have to be warm enough to permit the virus to disseminate in the mosquito so that it can be transmitted to another person. The symptoms of Zika virus infection are typically mild and self-limited  – fever, aches, rash, and conjunctivitis. In fact, the majority of those infected have no symptoms. Because the virus can enter the bloodstream even in asymptomatic infected persons, there is concern that the virus could be spread by blood transfusion, if a person donates blood during the short period (probably a few days at most) when virus is in the blood. Other reasons for the paper are to highlight what is known about some of the insect repellents and to point out important gaps in our knowledge of their use and urgent research needs. (more…)