A secret weapon against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases | Nina Fedoroff | Summary and Q&A

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A secret weapon against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases | Nina Fedoroff


Zika fever, a relatively mild disease for most adults, has become increasingly terrifying due to its association with microcephaly and other severe health complications, but a potential solution may lie in genetic modification and biological controls.

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Key Insights

  • 🦟 The Zika virus can cause Guillain-BarrΓ© syndrome, which attacks nerve cells and can lead to partial or total paralysis, but this is rare.
  • πŸ‘Ά If pregnant women are infected with the Zika virus, their babies are at risk of developing microcephaly, a condition where the head is too small due to a brain deformity.
  • 🌍 The Zika virus originated from the Zika forest in Uganda and first appeared in humans in Uganda-Tanzania. It then spread through Africa and Asia before reaching the Americas.
  • πŸ›« The increase in global air travel has played a significant role in spreading the Zika virus, as infected individuals can unknowingly carry the virus to different regions.
  • 🦟 Preventing infection involves protecting people, which currently includes vaccination, avoiding travel to Zika areas, and using insect repellent. However, a vaccine is not yet available.
  • πŸ›©οΈ Traditional insecticide spraying is not very effective against mosquitoes and can have harmful side effects. There is a need for more effective and environmentally friendly approaches.
  • 🐝 Genetically modified mosquitoes, such as those developed by the company Oxitec, have shown promise in reducing mosquito populations that transmit diseases like Zika, dengue, and Chikungunya.
  • 🧫 The regulation of genetically modified organisms in the US is complicated and has delayed the implementation of genetically modified mosquito control. However, attitudes are changing, especially in areas heavily affected by mosquito-borne diseases like Miami.


Zika fever: our newest dread disease. What is it? Where'd it come from? What do we do about it? Well for most adults, it's a relatively mild disease -- a little fever, a little headache, joint pain, maybe a rash. In fact, most people who get it don't even know they've had it. But the more we find out about the Zika virus the more terrifying it beco... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the symptoms of Zika fever in most adults?

For most adults, Zika fever is a relatively mild disease with symptoms such as a little fever, headache, joint pain, and possibly a rash. In fact, many people who contract Zika fever don't even realize they've had it.

Q: What is the main risk associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy?

Pregnant women who are infected with the Zika virus are at risk of giving birth to infants with a condition called microcephaly, where the baby has a brain that is too small for their head. There is currently no known cure for microcephaly.

Q: Where did the Zika virus originate from?

The Zika virus originated in the Zika forest in Uganda, Africa. The virus was first identified in a monkey in the Zika forest by researchers at the nearby Yellow Fever Research Institute, which is how it received its name.

Q: How did the Zika virus spread to other parts of the world?

The Zika virus initially spread through Africa and then into parts of Asia, mostly infecting monkeys and mosquitoes. The first human cases of Zika fever were reported in Uganda-Tanzania, and from there, the virus spread to West Africa, East Asia, Pacific islands, and eventually South America. It is believed that international travel, particularly by commercial airplane passengers, is a significant factor in the spread of the virus.

Q: How can we prevent Zika virus infection?

Currently, there is no vaccine available for Zika virus, so vaccination is not an option. Prevention methods include avoiding traveling to areas with Zika outbreaks, covering up and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites. However, it is worth noting that Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Zika fever is a relatively mild disease for most adults, but it can cause serious complications for pregnant women, such as microcephaly in infants.

  • The Zika virus originated in the Zika forest in Uganda and has spread to various parts of the world, including South America and the United States.

  • Prevention methods for Zika include insect repellent use, covering up, and eliminating mosquitoes through spraying insecticides or using genetically modified mosquitoes.

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