The Zika virus is actually a vector of the Aedes Aegypti, or more commonly known as dengue fever. The virus is spreading quite rapidly and recently it has been announced by the World Health Organization that Zika presents a public health emergency. The eradication of Aegypti has become of utmost importance, especially since a large number of babies were born with microcephaly in Brazil.
Microcephaly is Linked to the Virus
The virus came to the surface when a large number of babies were born with misshapen heads. The mothers of these babies were actually carrying the virus unknowingly. Babies born with microcephaly have brains that cannot develop properly, which leaves them disabled and with a possibility of early death.
Where the Virus Can Be Found
The Zika virus is believed to have originated in Brazil and has now spread to most of South and Central America. The Caribbean is the next known target and some cases of Zika are already erupting in the US. This virus has been spreading so rapidly that some residents of Europe are also infected, allegedly through sexual intercourse.
The British Team
Oxitec, a British biotechnology company, is currently working on remedying the entire Zika virus situation. They are working on a genetically modified version of Aedes Aegypti to help control diseases that are spreading through mosquitoes. The technology that is being developed by Oxitec will help target unobserved Aegypti as well, because these mosquito borne viruses can spread rapidly even with a single breeding female.
The Oxitec technology has genetically modified male mosquitoes such that their children cannot survive to adulthood. The plan is to breed these mosquitoes and dispatch their eggs around the world. The plan is already in action. Thousands of these genetically modified male mosquitoes were released onto the streets of Piracicaba in Brazil. Small-scale tests are being performed throughout Brazil and there is an obvious reduction in the cases of Aegypti.
Unlike Ebola, a faster remedy has been put into action against the Zika virus. Ebola was allowed to spread around for months and it ended up killing more than 11,000 people. However, there is still a lot to be done about Zika. As of now, no vaccine exists for it and its connection to microcephaly is still not confirmed. If doctors were able to figure out how this virus in pregnant women affects their babies, there would have been no need to suggest women to not get pregnant.
To make matters worse, the efforts of Oxitec have been put into question. There are circulating rumors that Oxitec has conspired to spread the Zika virus and is now collecting funds from the provincial government of Brazil to remedy the situation. Although there is consensus that Oxitec poses no such risks, it still has a long way to go to eliminate all mosquito borne diseases.