While Zika virus has been most prevalent in African nations, South America including Brazil and Mexico in Latin America have also reported a few cases of Zika virus in the recent past. Now, India has joined other Asia Pacific countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, reporting its first three cases of Zika virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Two Pregnant Women Among first Zika Cases from India
All the first three Zika Virus cases from India are from the state of Gujarat, and includes two pregnant women. However, the Health Ministry of India has urged the residents not to panic as the contamination has been contained, and bother women delivered healthy babies. The WHO noted these first three Zika cases in India on May 15, detecting it via routine blood surveillance in a hospital in Ahmedabad, the capital city of Gujarat. While the first two cases were reported in February and November 2016, third case came into notice in January this year.
Interestingly, these three patients did not travel abroad, which means the Zika infection was acquired domestically from mosquitoes known as daytime-active Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
Detection of Zika Virus a Tough Task
Owing to the lack of infrastructure in poorer parts of Asia Pacific, which leads to still water that are breading environment for the Zika virus and other mosquitoes, nearly 2.6 billion people are at risk, while foreign travel is another way of gaining infection. Sadly, several Zika cases go unnoticed as the patients do not set sick and the symptoms are very mild even for those who do.
In a recent research finding, traces of genetic material of Zika virus have been found in another mosquito species. Primarily carried by the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, RNA fragments of Zika have been found in Asian tiger mosquitoes during their genetic testing, researchers report.
However, the finding does not prove that Asian tiger mosquito can transmit Zika to individuals. But it certainly necessitates further research for the possibility of other carriers of Zika, as per the author of the study who is an associate professor at Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory at University of Florida. Further commenting via a new release from the Entomological Society of America, the author said that Aedes albopictus may be involved in transmission of Zika virus and is a concern for public health.
Further Research Needed to Ascertain New Carriers for Zika
Aedes albopictus is found across the world with a large number of hosts and has adapted to cold climates. However, the role of this mosquito in transmission of Zika virus is yet to be understood.
For the study part, Asian tiger mosquitoes were collected in Brazil and their eggs were hatched. The scientists found Asian tiger males to test positive for Zika RNA but not live Zika virus. These findings necessitate further research if Aedes albopictus can transmit Zika. These findings also underline the reason why insect scientists and medical researchers need to be extremely cautious while carrying out studies on mosquitoes.
The findings of the study further suggest that mosquitoes collected from areas with high number of Zika cases need to be tested for Zika RNA. In the event if these mosquitoes test positive for Zika RNA, they need to be tested for Zika virus before they are transported to be used in research.