Published: Thu, May 25, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Zika arrived in Florida 3 months before detection, study says

Zika arrived in Florida 3 months before detection, study says

The Florida research was one of three papers on Zika published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

In June 2016, researchers traveled about 1,240 miles across northeastern Brazil in a minibus outfitted with a cutting-edge mobile DNA sequencing system, which allowed them to test samples from more than 1,000 patients infected with Zika. "Our data and findings will also support development of more effective molecular diagnostic tests, as well as improved public health surveillance tools".

Professor Oliver Pybus also of the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology said "We generated Zika virus genomes to establish the virus' epidemic history in the Americas".

Andersen said the Miami and Brownsville areas face the highest risk of a Zika outbreak, while remaining swaths of the continental USA are unlikely to see a significant outbreak. Soon, local mosquitos began transmitting the virus to Brazilians, including pregnant women. Sabeti and colleagues' analysis suggested that Zika was circulating in Brazil around February 2014, a year before that nation's first confirmed infections were reported.

The portable sequencer, made by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, weighs less than 100 grams and is powered by the USB port of a laptop computer.

"Collectively our goal was to capture as complete a picture of the genetic underpinnings of the epidemic in the Americas as we could".

Prof Luiz Alcantara from FioCruz Bahia, Brazil hints that: "The project is now expanding to other geographic areas in Brazil, where we are tackling not only Zika virus but also dengue and chikungunya viruses, as well as the very recent ongoing yellow fever epidemics". Most of the 256 cases reported in the Florida outbreak did not occur until late summer, he added.

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The Zika virus that spread through South Florida past year likely started two months before it was confirmed, was introduced by at least four infected people - and as many as 42 - and originated in the Caribbean, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

By sequencing the genetic makeup of Zika, researchers have been able to track its spread, which will assist in better understanding its common links to child birth defects and other diseases. "We need to be well ahead of the next emerging viral threat, and genomics can have a role in achieving this", she said. When they modeled the reproduction rate of the Florida virus, they found it was unable to sustain itself. They found at least 4-and as many as 40-introductions into Florida past year. And most of those cases originated in the Caribbean. Was it here but invisible before the first transmission zone was confirmed in July?

The Miami study is one of three featured this week in Nature using genomic analysis to trace the spread of the Zika virus through the Americas. In a TSRI press release, he said, "This study shows why Miami is special". About 3 million travelers arrived in Miami from the Caribbean during the first half of 2016.

In response to the detected West Nile virus activity, the district will increase mosquito trapping and surveillance in the area to find where mosquitoes may be breeding.

Miami Beach sanitation worker Melvin Gaitan cleaned an alley with water heated to 250 degrees during the height of last year's Zika outbreak in August 2016. In another paper, Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and colleagues focused specifically on Zika's introduction into Florida.

In another key finding, splitting Miami into designated Zika transmission zones didn't accurately depict how the virus was moving. Researchers analyzed 39 Zika virus genomes isolated from 32 people who had been infected and seven Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species that carries Zika.

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