2020-02-10 - 2020-02-14 | Research area: EvoDevo
2015 saw a worldwide epidemy sweep through South-America, leaving 3500 microcephaly and 4500 Guillain-Barré patients in its wake. As a result of these events, Zika qualified as an Emerging Infectious Disease within the same year. However, the surprising aspect of the Zika outbreak was that the virus had been known since its discovery in the 1940s, and was consistently described it as a low-risk pathogen with mild symptoms and zero mortality. So what changed in 2015, why did a seemingly harmless virus suddenly adopt neuroinvasion in mass numbers? And how did it spread through three continents within a year? Although numerous studies have since been launched to develop the proper vaccine, to identify the molecular structure of the virus and to further study its physiological effects, certain questions were not raised. Where did it come from, why did the outbreak happen in that particular region, and where is it now?
Can it cause a new outbreak, will it make it to Europe, and are there other pathogens similar to it? We started out by searching for answers to the ’how’ and ’why’ by analyzing evolutionary models and host-parasite dynamics. But in the process of finding the causes, we had stumbled upon issues that risk both implementing results and initiating future studies.