The Zika virus has triggered worldwide concern as it spreads across the Americas, leaving thousands of cases of the severe birth defect microcephaly in its wake. Several BWF awardees are working hard to predict the path of Zika, understand how it infects human cells, and identify ways to combat its most devastating effects. Science writer Marla Broadfoot interviewed six of these researchers about their efforts to combat this enigmatic disease.
Derek Cummings: Mapping the Spread of Zika
Cummings, a 2006 Career Award at the Scientific Interfaces recipient, studies the trends and dynamics of a wide range of infectious diseases, including Dengue, Influenza, and Zika. Here he explains what may be driving the current Zika outbreak, and warns that other emerging infectious diseases could be on the way.
Carolyn Coyne: Investigating How Zika Breaches the Placenta
Coyne, a 2012 Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease recipient, uses virology, immunology, and cell biology to dissect various aspects of host-virus interactions. Here she describes her efforts to understand how the Zika virus crosses from mother to unborn child, and explains why it is time to dedicate more funding to research on the placenta.
Sara Cherry: Pinpointing Weaknesses in Zika Infection
Cherry, a 2011 Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease recipient, studies factors that govern viral pathogenesis, including those that are hijacked by viruses to invade the host and those deployed by the host to combat invasion. Here she shares some encouraging results in the search for drugs that can treat Zika infection, and explains why the virus’s effects in mosquitos cannot be ignored.
Michael Diamond: Forging a Path for Zika Vaccines, Therapies, and Diagnostics
Diamond, a 2007 Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research recipient, investigates the basic biology and immunology of many mosquito-borne human pathogens. Here he describes how he has devised animal models of Zika infection, and how immunity to another related virus could be contributing to its alarming effects.
Indira Mysorekar: Gauging the Impact of Microbes on the Placenta
Mysorekar, a 2011 Preterm Birth Initiative award recipient, examines how infections can trigger preterm birth, using cell culture models, mouse models, and human placental tissues. Here she explains her efforts to study how the placenta protects the fetus from bacteria and viruses, and understand what happens when they make their way across that normally impenetrable barrier.
Abraham Brass: Identifying the Factors Exploited by Zika to Infect a Host
Brass, a 2013 Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease recipient, employs functional genomics to gain insight into host-virus interactions. Here he explains how techniques discovered in worms and bacteria have fueled his work, and describes some of the ways that these genomic technologies are illuminating Zika infection.