International entomologists to collaborate on controlling Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue in Brazil

Zika Virus
Electron micrograph of Zika virus. Virus particles are 40 nm in diameter, with an outer envelope and a dense inner core. (Source: CDC/ Cynthia Goldsmith)

On March 13, 2016, in Maceió, Alagoas, Brazil, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the Sociedade Entomológica do Brasil (SEB) will host a gathering of the world’s entomological societies to discuss collaborative control options to combat one of the world’s most deadly animal species — Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that transmits Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The purpose of the summit will be to marshal the international community of entomologists to better control mosquito-borne diseases in the Americas and around the world.

Titled “Summit of the Americas on the Aedes aegypti Crisis: Joining Together to Address a Grand Challenge,” the Summit is expected to convene the world’s foremost entomology researchers and several dozen other high-impact attendees to seek ways to combat this mosquito.

“The recent impact of the Zika virus has added urgency to an already critical meeting,” said C. David Gammel, ESA’s Executive Director. “Entomological societies are in a unique position to address issues related to controlling insects that spread these diseases by convening the global entomological community along with related stakeholders.”

The gathering is the first of two Summits that ESA will host in 2016 as part of the society’s Grand Challenges Agenda, which looks for areas where entomology can have a meaningful and positive impact on issues of human importance. At this first Summit, leaders of the international entomological communities will meet with leaders from government agencies, Industry representatives, public-health experts, and funders to discuss the crisis caused by this mosquito, as well as ways that the societies can respond. Establishing a sustainable program of effective mosquito suppression is a central objective of this first summit. A second summit will be hosted in Orlando, Florida during the International Congress of Entomology (ICE) in September 2016.

“Preparations to host this important summit on Aedes aegypti began two years ago as a way to address dengue and chikungunya, which has become a global epidemic with a reported 2.35 million cases in the Americas alone,” said Dr. Grayson C. Brown, a University of Kentucky researcher, past President of ESA, and co-chair of the event. “Now that Zika has become an important health crisis, our mission has become even more critical. It is vital that the world’s scientific leaders work together on this issue.”

Zika and chikungunya have been rapidly gaining momentum as major public-health threats after their recent introductions in the Americas. Aedes aegypti carries these and other dangerous and potentially fatal diseases, including dengue and yellow fever. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently identified Zika as a probable cause of micro-cephaly in newborn infants, leading the U.S. government to issue travel warnings to affected regions.

“There is a good reason that the mosquito is labelled the most dan-gerous animal in the world,” said Dr. Luciano Moreira, a researcher at Fundação Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil and co-chair of the Summit. “An integrative control strategy, joining different disciplines should be envisaged to control this deadly mosquito.”

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus. The symptoms of the illness it causes include rashes, headaches, joint pains and conjunctivitis – similar but not as serious as its cousin, dengue fever.

Although the symptoms are mild, the spread of the virus is a cause for concern. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said, “The level of alarm is extremely high.”

“Last year the disease was detected in the Americas, where it is spreading explosively,” said WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan.

Since the discovery of the virus in Uganda the 50’s, the virus has been detected in Asia and some of the Pacific islands.  The virus that detected in Brazil now includes 23 countries in the Americas.

The cause of great concern is the possible link of Zika Fever during pregnancy and microcephaly after Brazilian authorities reported about 3500 cases since October last year. That’s more than a 2000 percent increase from the previous year.

 

Microcephaly

Microcephaly is a disorder where a newborn’s head is smaller than the average. It could occur where the foetus or baby’s brain has stopped developing.

Image: Neural scans of a skull with microcephaly (right) and a normal skull (left) Source: Evolutionary History of a Gene Controlling Brain Size (2004)

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