Zika! It was the talk of the town during 2015-16 and has thus quieted down, but the virus still lingers and scientists are still working to combat it.
A quick recap – Zika virus is an infection that causes little no or mild symptoms which is similar to a mild version of dengue fever. The virus can’t be killed by meds or vaccines but perhaps the worst part is that it could harm our newborns. Zika can spread from a pregnant woman to her baby and can result in microcephaly. Microcephaly is a very severe brain malformation along with other scary birth defects.
Now that you’ve been recapped on all seasons of Zika and microcephaly, we can move onto what’s being done about them.
Miracle workers at Imperial College London and the University of Washington, St. Louis have figured out that the antibodies of victims suffering from Dengue virus can also help treat Zika infections in mice.
These pesky infections are spread by pesky mosquitoes. It was first discovered in Uganda, but mosquitoes brought it over to the Americas a couple of years ago, introducing a wave of all-American social media GIF panic.
Since then, Zika cases have significantly vanished, which caused many scientists to abandon the search for a proper vaccine. However, there are those that haven’t given up the brave fight. More miracle workers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have found a small saving grace: the IFITm3 protein. This little building block of goodness blocks Zika infections. Others are taking a more futuristic approach that is something straight out of a Black Mirror episode. Oxitec is creating genetically engineered mosquitoes to lower the population of other Zika bugs.
Professor Screaton, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London remains cautious:
“The threat from Zika is clearly not as great as it was, but nobody knows when it’s going to come back,”
What follows will be a harrowing task. These miracle workers will have to graduate their experiments from rodents to actual humans, without turning us into mice people in the process!