By now, you cannot have escaped the Zika scare. The virus is prominent in South America – which made many nervous about the Olympics being held in Rio – but has spread into the United States. Spread through mosquito bites or sexual activity, Zika is not dangerous to most, but it can be passed from pregnant mother to child and has been linked to serious birth defects. The rapid spread of this disease has left many worried about their safety and led El Salvador to advise women not get pregnant for several years.
While currently, there is no vaccine and no cure for Zika, a recent breakthrough might “both stop Zika from replicating in the body and from damaging the crucial fetal brain cells that lead to birth defects in newborns.”
The team consists of a mix of badass women and men from Florida State University, John Hopkins University, and the National Institutes of Health. The researchers studied roughly 6,000 different drugs, including existing approved drug compounds, and their effect on Zika. They found that some of the drugs – one which has already been approved by the FDA to treat tapeworm – inhibited Zika replication.
FSU Professor of Biological Science, Hengli Tang, explained that the team wanted to find the “shortest path to clinical use.” This is an important mindset for researchers to have as they move forward. Earlier this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the United States National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, informed the CDC that “we will not have a widely available safe and effective Zika vaccine this year and probably not for the next few years.”
To cure the global health crisis that is the Zika virus, we need researchers who can work quickly and utilize every resource available. This week’s breaththrough is a major step in the right direction. Thank you to these badass men and women working to keep us safe.
Photo: Florida State University