Quirks & Quarks

The virus outbreak - from Aedes to Zika

Scientists are investigating what might be causing Zika to spread so quickly, and the disturbing connection to microcephaly.

Scientists are trying to understand the many mysteries around Zika virus

Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito that carries Zika virus. (US Centers for Disease Control)

The Zika virus, carried by the Aedes mosquito, has been spreading quickly through South and Central America, and the World Health Organization has declared it a "Global Health Emergency." Most alarming about the epidemic is the correlation with a large number of cases of microcephaly among newborns in Brazil.

According to Dr. Tom Hobman, a Professor of Cell Biology, as well as Canada Research Chair in RNA Viruses and Host Interactions, and principal investigator in the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, at the University of Alberta, both the quick spread of this Zika outbreak, and the association with microcephaly, seem to be new behaviours for this virus, and haven't been recognized in previous outbreaks.

Dr. Hobman's lab is investigating the virus to see if it has mutated to acquire these new characteristics, and hopes to investigate how the virus might be spreading, and how it might be passing into infants and affecting neural tissue.

Related Links

- CBC News story
Maclean's story
The Atlantic story
New York Times story
Science story