Culex mosquitoes do not transmit zika virus, study finds

A Biosecurity Research Institute study has found important results in the fight against Zika virus: Culex mosquitoes do not appear to transmit Zika virus.

Researchers at Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute studied Culex species mosquitoes from across the country, including Vero Beach in Florida, which is near Miami-Dade County where mosquitoes are spreading Zika virus.

The research, "Culex species mosquitoes and Zika virus," appears in the journal Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases and involves researchers from Rutgers University, the University of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The findings are important for controlling Zika virus in Florida and preventing its spread to other parts of the country, said Dana Vanlandingham, lead author and assistant professor of virology in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"It's very important to know that Culex mosquitoes are not able to transmit Zika," Vanlandingham said. "It enables people to target their control strategies so that they aren't wasting time and effort on a mosquito that isn't transmitting Zika virus."

It is the first Zika virus research publication from the Biosecurity Research Institute. Before this study, Culex mosquitoes' role in Zika virus was unclear. By studying Culex mosquitoes over a period of time, the researchers found that Zika virus did not multiply and instead disappeared in the species.

"This is great news," said Stephen Higgs, co-author and director of the Biosecurity Research Institute. "We can check this particular group of mosquitoes off the list here in the U.S. and focus efforts of control on the mosquitoes that we know can infect, like Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified Aedes aegypti, or yellow fever mosquito, and Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, as two species that transmit Zika virus. Both mosquitoes are widely distributed in the U.S. and are present in Kansas.

Culex mosquitoes are brown mosquitoes, while Aedes aegypti are black and Aedes albopictus are black and white. Culex mosquitoes transmit West Nile virus and Japanese encephalitis and live outside. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus can live in and around houses in plant trays, spare containers or gutters.

"We need to know which mosquitoes to target and which mosquitoes not to target because mosquitoes live in different environments," said Vanlandingham, whose research focuses on zoonotic viruses -- such as Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya. "Some mosquitoes are found outside and some are more in people's homes. You need to know this in order to target your efforts."

Both Vanlandingham and Higgs emphasize the importance of personal responsibility in stopping the spread of Zika virus. Homeowners can get rid of small pools of water where mosquitoes breed and should use mosquito repellent as personal protection.

While a startup fund from the university's College of Veterinary Medicine provided funding for this Biosecurity Research Institute study, there is still a need for additional national funding to support research that stops Zika virus, said Higgs, who also has studied chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has a similar transmission cycle to that of Zika virus.

"We thought that this research is so important with what is going on that we were able to use startup funding," Higgs said. "This research is basic research because we don't know some of the most fundamental information about mosquitoes. Applied research -- such as vaccines and diagnostics -- are obviously very important, but there is a need for funding basic research as well."

President Obama Making Final Push for Progressive Agenda

President Obama meets with the top four leaders of Congress today at the White House, where an elusive agreement on emergency Zika funding and a bill to keep the government open after the fiscal year ends at the end of the month are expected to be among the top issues of discussions.

Obama will meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The Senate is already considering taking up a short-term spending bill to fund the government through Dec. 9, but the House has not determined how it will proceed. The Senate’s plan for the bill, called a continuing resolution, is to tack up to $1 billion in Zika funds onto the must-pass legislation.

Obama’s continued push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership during his trip to Asia, closing Guantanamo and his stalled nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court also figure to be among the priorities the president will address.

Heading into the meeting, Ryan slammed the president’s progressive legacy for its “historically weak” economic recovery, and consolidating the federal government's control of issues like health care, immigration and gun control.

“In more and more areas of American life, President Obama has given government the starring role and pushed the people into the wings,” the Wisconsin Republican wrote in The Washington Times. “He might consider this a success, but here's the true measure of progressivism: After eight years of it, the vast majority of Americans say we're on the wrong track.”

The president will also provide a briefing of his visit to Asia, which included stops in China for the G-20 summit of economic global powers and Laos, where he became the first U.S. president to visit when he attended a summit of Southeast Asian leaders.

Government funding runs out Sept. 30.

  • Published in World

Zika vaccine trials begin – but fears remain over virus’s impact

There’s finally some progress in the fight against Zika. A vaccine is being given to 160 people in Zika-hit Puerto Rico, and a preliminary study has identified two existing drugs that seem to protect human brain cells from the virus.

The vaccine, developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, contains a synthetic DNA fragment similar to one in the virus itself. The company hopes that people who receive it will develop immune protection against Zika.

The two drugs that might be useful as a treatment came from an analysis of thousands of compounds, including some drugs that are used to treat other conditions. Zika seems to target cells that make new neurons in the brain and stop them from working properly. This is thought to cause the horrendous brain defects seen in some babies born with the virus, and could also put infected adults at risk of memory and mood disorders.

A team of researchers from the US and China identified one drug – currently in clinical trials for liver diseases – that protects brain cells from damage, and 10 others that stop Zika from replicating, one of which is an already-approved drug used to treat worm infections. A combination of two compounds could be an effective Zika treatment, say the authors, who hope to start testing in animals soon.


But we are still some way off having treatments ready for use on the ground, says Edwin Trevathan, a paediatric neurologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who advises the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Zika. “Even if the vaccine development moves as quickly as we’d like, realistically it will be a year before we have something we can use to protect people,” he says.

Transmission cases

The development is welcome after a couple of weeks of bad news. Last Friday, the CDC described the first known case of Zika transmission from a man who had shown no symptoms of illness to his sexual partner, a couple of weeks after he returned from the Dominican Republic. The news came days after a finding that Zika had remained in an Italian man’s semen for six months after a trip to Haiti – around three times longer than previously seen in people.

At the same time, doctors and scientists are warning that the effects of Zika could be worse than thought, and may not affect some babies for several years, when it could impact their brain development. “It could affect parts of the brain that don’t manifest their function until the age of 2, 4 or 6,” says Travathan. “Sadly, I suspect that many of us who take care of children will see the effects of Zika for a long time. This is a problem that may have been dramatically underestimated.”

Until we have vaccines and treatments, efforts are under way to stem infections and the spread of Zika-infected mosquitoes. Last Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration recommended testing for Zika virus in all donated blood before it is used. The organisation has also fast-tracked the approval of a commercially available Zika diagnosis kit.

The CDC has set aside $6.8 million to fund public awareness, diagnosis and mosquito surveillance – although this is only a fraction of the $1.9 billion that the Obama administration has requested from Congress. And new polls suggest that most people living in Florida support the release of genetically modified mosquitoes that could help stem the spread of the virus.

Spain Reports 219 Patients Infected with the Zika Virus

In Spain the number of people diagnosed with the Zika virus has increased to 219, including 37 pregnant women, according to information from the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.

The number of cases has increased by 26 in the last eight days. All the patients, except one, had traveled to countries affected by the disease.

The health authorities confirmed the first birth of a baby with microcephaly and other malformations in Spain on July 25th, after the mother was infected with Zika and dengue during a trip to Latin America.

Doctors at the hospital Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona stated then that the baby's mother did not want an abortion, although significant brain abnormalities in the fetus were detected in May, when she was 20 weeks pregnant.

In July, the Health Ministry also reported a case of a female infected with Zika by her partner, after he made a trip to Latin America; the first case of sexual transmission of the virus in the nation.

The autonomous region of Catalonia and Madrid have the highest number of cases, 81 and 56 respectively.

In February, Spain approved a protocol for the Zika epidemic and other diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

  • Published in World

Rihanna pulls out of festival due to Zika virus fears

Rihanna has reportedly pulled out of a festival in South America over fears about the Zika virus.

Organisers of Lollapalooza Colombia told ticket holders that a headline act had quit the show and they have now cancelled the event.

A local news publication, La Tercera, named Rihanna as the star in question.

Lana Del Rey, Disclosure, The Chainsmokers and Wiz Khalifa were also due to perform at the festival.

Full refund

Rihanna was never officially announced as the Lollapalooza Colombia festival headliner, with just ????? at the top of the bill on the most recent line-up.

"The organisers wish to express their deep appreciation to all the fans who supported the festival since day one, as well as the sponsors and the media partners."

Newsbeat has contacted Rihanna's record label for comment, but they have yet to respond.

Ticket holders are being offered a refund for the event.

Lollapalooza line-upRihanna has been named as the ????? artist set to headline the show

The festival, which was due to take place in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, was to be the first Lollapalooza event of its kind.

The World Health Organisation declared the Zika outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in February 2016, leading to several countries issuing travel warnings to citizens.

The outbreak has caused great concern for athletes and spectators heading to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

The Zika virus is relatively harmless to most people but a major concern for pregnant women.

It can spread to an unborn fetus and cause microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with under-developed brains and heads, leading to a number of physical and mental conditions.


  • Published in Culture

Cuba Reports Eight Imported Zika Case

Cuban health authorities reported on Friday the confirmation of the eighth imported case of a patient with Zika virus, corresponding to a 58 year-old culture worker who came from Venezuela.

According to a note issued on Cuban television, the patient lives in Isabela de Sagua, in the municipality of Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara province (center), and returned to the country on March 30.

The patient began to have a fever (37.8 degrees) on April 2, with no other symptoms, and attended that day his health area, from where he was referred to the Arnaldo Milian Castro provincial hospital for his admission, details the text.

On April 5 he underwent sampling for diagnosis, which was received on April 6 in the laboratory of the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute (IPK), being results positive for Zika virus.

The note informs that the patient remains at the hospital and that he is in good general condition, and asymptomatic.

  • Published in Cuba
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