LSU Vet School receives grant to study Zika virus

Zika virus (Source: CDC)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – Fears over the mosquito-borne Zika virus have spread almost as fast as the virus itself. While researchers are working to understand and prevent the virus, many questions remain about how it spreads.

Now, Dr. Rebecca Christofferson at the LSU Veterinarian School will soon be working to answer a few of those questions.

“One of the things we don’t know is how efficient is the virus in the mosquito? Is it affected by different viral strains? Is it affected by different populations of mosquitoes?” Christofferson said.

Christofferson and the vet school were awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study both Zika and the Chikungunya virus. Her team will look at how temperature and the species of mosquitoes affect the spread of the viruses.

“We’re going to look at these two viruses, put them safely in mosquitoes and measure outcomes like, how long do the mosquitoes live, does being infected alter the mosquitoes lifespan, how long does it take for the mosquito to become infectious once we expose it to virus,” Christofferson explained.

Working with the University of Mexico, the data collected will be used to build mathematical models which are a valuable tool to predict where or how long an outbreak may happen.

“These models certainly could be used to inform public health decisions,” Christofferson said.

The grant period begins September 1, 2016 and will end in three years.

Meanwhile, Christofferson emphasizes that Zika is not currently a threat to Louisiana because there are no transmitted cases. With the recent flooding, she says the biggest concern is West Nile.

Christofferson encourages everyone to protect themselves from bites by emptying out standing water and wearing repellent with DEET.

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