Fewer people would be infected by Zika in a population where a small proportion spent a large amount of time outside, but the disease would be transmitted at a faster rate, a modeling study found. Researchers writing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases surveyed residents of Miami-Dade county in Florida about how much time they spent outside, and combined that data with previously collected data about how much time people spend outside nationally. The results showed that in a heterogeneous population — with some people spending a lot of time outside, and some spending very little time outside — fewer people would become infected with the virus, but it would spread faster, than in a homogenous population, where everyone spent an average amount of time outside. The researchers said their findings suggest that mosquito-control efforts should perhaps be centered around areas where people spend a large amount of time outside, such as recreational areas and tourist attractions.
New Vaccine Target May Have Potential to Prevent Zika
Researchers are in the early stages of harnessing the power of the body’s immune system in a vaccine to help prevent infection by flaviviruses, including Zika. Writing in Science Immunology, the team said they discovered that receptors within natural killer cells may be able to target proteins within viruses, including hepatitis C and flaviviruses such as Zika. Vaccines stimulate the immune system in response to proteins on the virus, the authors explained, but some viruses have the ability to change their proteins. But the researchers found that these receptors can target a portion of the virus protein that does not change (in this case, the NS3 helicase protein), which can prevent it from multiplying. The investigators were able to demonstrate this in patients with hepatitis C, but speculated that it could potentially be applicable to treating flaviviruses, because they contain the same protein.
Senator Rubio Warns of Potential Upswing in Zika in Post-Irma Florida
In a letter addressed to the Department of Health and Human Services and published in PoliticoPRO, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked HHS Secretary Tom Price to take “proactive measures” in responding to the potential increase in mosquito populations in Florida following Hurricane Irma. Rubio added that despite the fact that mosquitoes and their larvae may not have survived the hurricane, the CDC has still warned of an increase in the mosquito population following a storm, and that the CDC continues to advise travelers to Miami-Dade county to protect themselves from mosquitoes, with local transmission of Zika still a possibility.