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Friday, December 3rd, 2021

NIAID report establishes push toward Zika prevention, remaining questions

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Zika virus

Though scientists have been working steadily toward understanding and prevention of Zika since 2016, a recent report published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases makes it clear that many questions remain.

For one thing, scientists cannot yet say that another Zika pandemic will not re-emerge, perhaps even more aggressively than before. It is established in more than 80 countries, and while scientists are working toward treatments and vaccines now, they have not yet achieved either. This declaration comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) itself, which published the key report, consisting of a bundle of articles containing current knowledge and an introduction from NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, and Senior Advisor David Morens.

The report also analyzed the areas scientists still need to determine fully. Among them are whether certain viral mutations occurred to make Zika spread the way it did and if different species of mosquitoes are capable of transmitting Zika, as well as the troubling question of what that could mean for future spread. Another big question is what makes Zika unique to cause congenital infection, neurologic conditions, encephalitis and transmit sexually while also persisting for long periods of time across multiple parts of the body. Other inquiries still include whether preexisting immunities to similar flaviviruses might affect Zika exposure and infection in turn.

Fauci and Morens, even while dubbing the Zika pandemic as one of medical tragedy and social challenges, noted that it is likely to serve as the foundation for addressing infectious diseases that could emerge in the future.