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Virologica Sinica, 31 (4) : 357, 2016
Insight
Accidental discovery and isolation of Zika virus in Uganda and the relentless epidemiologist behind the investigations
1. Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan 430071, China
2. 6 Belvedere Terrace, Ocean Grove, Victoria 3226, Australia
3. Scientist Emeritus, Laboratory for Molecular Virology, GLFC, Sault Ste. Marie P6A 2E5, Canada
 Correspondence: basil.arif@canada.ca
(986.48KB)  
Abstract
Zika virus (ZIKV) has captured the attention of the world because of its potential to infect neural cells and its teratogenic effects on foetuses and the new born. The virus seems to have various modes of transmission and has been the subject of many reviews in the literature (example, Musso and Gubler, 2016, Wang et al., 2016). ZIKV was first isolated in 1947 but remained almost innocuous causing few and sporadic mild infections until 60 years later when an outbreak occurred in YAP State in the Federal State of Micronesia in 2007 infecting nearly 75% of the population (Duffy et al., 2009; Ai et al., 2016). A few years later (2013– 2014), there was an epidemic in the islands of French Polynesia located about half way between Mexico and Australia. Almost concomitantly, minor outbreaks occurred in other isolated Pacific islands such as Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia. It is truly remarkable how the virus has spread within a short time to these seemingly isolated islands. However, nothing brought ZIKV to the attention of the world more than the horrific images of newborn babies with microcephaly in north eastern Brazil (Adibi et al., 2016, Rubin et al., 2016; Schuler-Faccini et al., 2016). These images were the impetus for concerted efforts to study viral tropism and to put into motion efforts to combat its spread. The World Health Organization has deemed ZIKV a “public health emergency of international concern” (Cohn J, 2016). The purpose of this manuscript is to review the very early research that led to the discovery and partial characterization of the virus along with some current thoughts and add few personal anecdotes about the scientist who discovered it.
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Received: 15 Aug 2016  Accepted: 15 Aug 2016  Published online: 18 Jul 2016
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