Zika virus cure: Australian health experts may stop infection via dengue fever program

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Meliodosis and Zika Virus
Boxes of genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are displayed to the media before being released in Piracicaba, Brazil April 30, 2015. British biotechnology company Oxitec said its laboratory created the genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with a specially-made gene to reduce the numbers of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by killing their offspring. Brazil already has more than 460,000 cases of people with dengue in 2015, according to the City Department of Health. Reuters/Paulo Whitaker

Australian health authorities have been on alert since the World Health Organisation declared Zika virus outbreak as a global emergency and potentially bigger than the Ebola epidemic. However, scientists in north Queensland may have found a way to stop the Zika virus transmission. They have probably found an answer in a dengue fever program that can be modified to prevent the Zika spread.

The mosquito-borne disease Zika has been connected to microcephaly that has caused thousands of birth defects in Brazil already. The Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue also carries the Zika virus. Although the mosquito is found in north Queensland, no case of Zika attack has been reported yet.

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Professor Scott O'Neill of the Eliminate Dengue project believes that the Wolbachia bacteria, which stop mosquitoes from transmitting dengue, may also work on Zika virus, writes News.com.au. The project released mosquitoes five years ago, injected with the Wolbachia bacteria in Cairns. He claimed that he has unpublished information that the bacteria have also reduced Zika virus transmission.

“The biology of Zika's transmission is almost identical to dengue's so it makes sense,” said O'Neill.

Related: Zika virus prevention: Experts offer advice on preventing Zika virus spread in the west

He also added that the program has the potential to create a big impact on global dengue and possibly Zika transmission too.

“The suburbs where we have put out the Wolbachia mosquitoes, we haven't seen any dengue transmissions. The impacts we see for dengue in the field should be similar to Zika,” O'Neill added.

Trials are already underway in Cairns, Townsville, Columbia, Vietnam and Brazil, reports the ABC.

Up to now, there have been 20 registered cases of Zika virus in Australia and all of them have been infected overseas. Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick has urged residents in the state’s north to wear long-sleeved shirts, apply insect repellent and get rid of still water. A state prevention response will be discussed at a roundtable discussion on Thursday.

However, the Health minister has assured that north Queensland is well-prepared for a Zika outbreak as it has experience handling dengue fever.

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