Researchers look to Africa for insights about Zika

August 1, 2017

By Meaghan Flores

There is a possibility that the Zika virus could be more widespread in Africa than previously thought, a major concern to researchers around the world because of the potential for another outbreak.

The 2015 Zika outbreak emerged in Brazil, but knowledge of the virus dates back the 1940s, when it was first discovered in Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria. Since then the disease has spread across the world. By February 2016, the virus had spread rapidly across the Americas, with more than 20 countries reporting local transmission.

Zika has proven to be more complex than originally thought, as some of the trends and abnormalities seen in the outbreak of the virus in the Americas have not been the same as in Africa. This could be because there are two separate linkages of the virus, one originating in Africa and the other in Asia, or because health care systems in Africa are poor and aren’t detecting the virus well.

A recent study shows that while people might have detected the virus in the 1980s, compared to other mosquito-related diseases at the time, the clinical significance of the virus wasn’t appreciated.

Zika mainly affects infants that are still in the womb when their pregnant mothers are infected and it is mainly transported by mosquitos.

Studying the variations in the Zika virus in Africa can help researchers understand it better and aid in preparation for any possible outbreaks. Evidence that Zika has been circulating silently in West Africa for several decades is important because it could help scientists and governmental agencies be prepared for more outbreaks, as well as provide more information about the virus’ link to neurological diseases.

Read more about the study at The Conversation.

QualTex Laboratories tests blood and related donations for the presence of the Zika virus for the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center and other organizations in the United States. QualTex and STBTC are subsidiaries of BioBridge Global.

Meaghan Flores is a student at Texas State University.