In DepthInfectious Disease

Mosquito hunters search for Zika vectors

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Science  03 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6290, pp. 1152-1153
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6290.1152

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Zika virus, the once obscure pathogen now widely feared for causing birth defects and other problems, has spread very far, very quickly since an outbreak was first noticed in northeast Brazil in early 2015. It has reached more than 40 countries across the Americas, even making it to the Cape Verde islands, off the western coast of Africa. More than a million people have become infected along the way. As public health officials try to contain the epidemic, researchers are racing to answer a key question with important implications for which areas are at risk, and what methods might work to slow its spread: Which mosquitoes are transmitting the virus? That is no small challenge. Scientists need evidence from both lab-raised and wild-caught mosquitoes to make the case that a given species is helping spread the virus. Only last week, a team in Rio de Janeiro announced that they had nabbed several Aedes aegypti infected with Zika—the first infected mosquitoes found in Brazil. The species has long been the prime suspect, but some scientists believe the Zika virus must have other carriers to have spread so quickly—and they have field and lab studies underway to resolve the issue.