Zika may be spread by 35 species of mosquitoes, researchers say

March 3, 2017 by Daniel Chang, Miami Herald
Anopheles gambiae mosquito, feeding on blood. Credit: James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Zika may be spread by as many as 35 species of mosquitoes, including seven found in the United States, according to a predictive model created by University of Georgia ecologists and published Tuesday in the journal, eLife.

The spread rapidly through Brazil and the Caribbean in 2015 and 2016, leading to a spike in babies with severe birth defects born to mothers infected with Zika while pregnant.

But despite being named a by the World Health Organization and by Florida health officials in February 2016, Zika remained little understood by scientists - including the science of how it spreads, University of Georgia researchers reported.

Most scientists, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, believe Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus species of mosquito, both of which are prevalent in Florida.

But University of Georgia ecologists reasoned that there must be other types of mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika because an outbreak of the virus on Yap Island in 2007 was driven by a different species, Aedes hensilli - and because other viruses closely related to Zika are spread by more than nine mosquito species, on average.

To test their theory, researchers created a mathematical model that finds patterns in large and complex data on viruses related to Zika, known as flaviviruses, and all the mosquito species that have ever been associated with them.

They then used the model to test the combination of Zika virus with all the mosquito species known to transmit at least one flavivirus, and found 35 species that may be transmitters, including seven found in the United States.

University of Georgia researchers recommended their findings be used to prioritize mosquito species for further studies that would confirm their ability to spread Zika while the virus is still laying low.

So far in 2017, Florida has reported only four travel-related cases and no new local infections. In 2016, the virus also began with a handful of travel-related cases before erupting into a local outbreak in Miami and Miami Beach in the summer and fall.

Florida's health department reported a total of 1,325 Zika cases, including 1,042 travel-related infections and 262 locally acquired ones in 2016. An additional 21 cases, authorities couldn't verify where the exposure took place. The state does not disclose whether with Zika acquired the virus during travel or while in the state. But included among the totals for travel-related and locally acquired cases were 224 pregnant women with Zika in 2016.

Explore further: Another Miami neighborhood now zika-free

Related Stories

Another Miami neighborhood now zika-free

December 3, 2016

(HealthDay)—The Little River section of Miami is no longer an area where local Zika infection is active, Florida health officials reported Friday.

Texas announces first local Zika case (Update)

November 28, 2016

Texas has announced its first case of local Zika virus, making it the second US state after Florida to say it likely has mosquitoes spreading the disease that can cause birth defects.

Zika Virus in the Southeast

October 3, 2016

As of the end of July 2016, there have been 1,658 cases of Zika virus infections diagnosed in the United States. It is believed that most of these infections were contracted outside the United States. While the Zika virus ...

New Zika zone identified in Miami

October 13, 2016

Florida has identified a new area in Miami where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is being transmitted locally, in addition to a previously described zone in Miami Beach, officials said Thursday.

Recommended for you

How birds and insects reacted to the solar eclipse

November 14, 2018

A team of researchers with Cornell University and the University of Oxford has found that birds and insects reacted in some surprising ways to the 2017 U.S. total solar eclipse. In their paper published in the journal Biology ...

Symbiosis a driver of truffle diversity

November 14, 2018

While the sight of black or white truffle being shaved over on pasta is generally considered a sign of dining extravagance, they play an important role in soil ecosystem services. Truffles are the fruiting bodies of the ectomycorrhizal ...

Gene-edited food is coming, but will shoppers buy?

November 14, 2018

The next generation of biotech food is headed for the grocery aisles, and first up may be salad dressings or granola bars made with soybean oil genetically tweaked to be good for your heart.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.