Jean-Paul Gonzalez, MD, PhD, Deputy Director, Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), Kansas State University, Adjunct Professor, Kansas State University, discusses the Zika virus from a historical perspective.
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)
“Back in 1988, when I did some preliminary work in Central African Republic at the Pasteur Institute, we found that in several villages, people were carrying antibodies against Zika. That [showed] us that the active circulation of the Zika virus already [was] in this part of Central Africa, far away from the Zika forest.
The history of flaviviruses around the world, including Zika, Chikungunya, even Dengue virus and Japanese Encephalitis, all these viruses are, in principle, pretty stable: they don’t evolve very fast. But, we got this example with Chikungunya, which has mutated and changed very fast. Zika is the same. Zika originally was in Central Africa not moving for decades, and then it [appeared] in Southeast Asia. Then it started evolving [and] mutating, giving [us] the Zika [strain] which is actually circulating now South America.
The whole story of Zika is from the darkness of the forest in Central Africa, then went to Southeast Asia, then crossed the Pacific, [making] some stops in these different islands and provoking some outbreaks and landing in South America. During that whole travel it changed and mutated and now it the Zika we have here, which is responsible for severe infection.”
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