The Zika virus has quickly become a major health threat, and researchers at Virginia Tech are looking for ways to curtail its spread.
Fralin Life Science Institute’s Vector-Borne Disease Research Group team members, from left: Zhijian “Jake” Tu, professor of biochemistry; Brantley Hall, biochemistry graduate student; Atashi Sharma, entomology graduate student; and Igor Sharakhov, associate professor of entomology
The virus, which is primarily spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, has been passed on to a growing number of Americans since early 2016, and the World Health Organization has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Biochemist Zhijian “Jake” Tu is one of several Virginia Tech researchers zeroing in on the Zika virus. Tu is studying genes that turn biting female mosquitoes into males, and he is exploring genetic strategies to stop the transmission of the Zika virus by reducing the number of female mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes do not bite and are harmless to humans, while female mosquitoes bite humans to get the blood they need for egg production.
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Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus.
While the commonwealth boasts an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy, Virginia summers have their drawbacks, too. Whether you’re hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains or hosting a backyard barbecue, chances are you’ll find yourself swatting at pesky mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes commonly occur throughout all parts of Virginia. They are not only annoyances but also potential carriers of disease, including the Zika virus. Virginia Cooperative Extension reminds residents that understanding basic mosquito habits and taking steps to disrupt their lifecycles can reduce the threat significantly.
The key to controlling mosquitoes is removing the standing or stagnant water where they thrive and reproduce, according to Eric Day, manager of the Virginia Tech Insect Identification Lab.
“The big pest mosquitoes in Virginia are container breeders, so in natural situations their larvae are developing in tree holes, which are holes in trees that collect water,” Day says. “In yards and around businesses, they are going to be breeding in locations such as stopped-up gutters, birdbaths, old containers, tires, or any structure that collects and holds water.”
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