The rapid spread of the Zika virus in the Americas has prompted international concern because of its apparent link to birth defects, including microcephaly, in infants born to infected women. The virus may also be linked to cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disabling immune disorder. The World Health Organization has declared the Zika outbreak an international health emergency.
The virus is spread by the bite of Aedes mosquitoes, which also transmit dengue and chikungunya virus, among other pathogens. Suppressing these mosquitoes would therefore likely limit the spread of these diseases as well as Zika. One way to suppress Aedes populations now being researched would involve a "gene drive," a genetic construct that once introduced into wild populations is expected to spread rapidly. Such a construct could be designed to bring about a population crash, for example by distorting the sex ratio in mosquito populations. Despite the promise, using gene drives to control wild species raises ethical questions that are only now being addressed.
In this AIBS Webinar, prominent experts will address what we know about the epidemiology and clinical manifestations of Zika, the status of research on gene drives that might be able to control Aedes populations, and ethical considerations around the use of gene drives.
Speakers: Davidson H. Hamer, MD, Boston University School of Public Health
Zach N. Adelman, PhD, Virginia Tech
Sahotra Sarkar, PhD, University of Texas, Austin
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