Zika Virus

Zika Questions By: Gage Kemp & Luke Kotz

About The Zika Virus

Spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. People usually don’t get sick enough to have to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. Once a person has been infected, they are likely to be immune from future infections.

What is currently being done to fight the Zika virus?

GMO mosquitos are being mass released, and when they mate they are unable to reproduce or the larva die. Which results in a massive drop in population by 90%. Many people are concerned about the effects of releasing the mosquitos, but it has been approved by scientists.

Could we use GMO mosquitos to remove the Zika carrying mosquito population?

The idea is to modify the mosquito genotype so they will not be able to reproduce. If the mosquitoes are released and mate with the wild-type mosquito, their 100% of the offspring would have the toxin. If a larva has the toxin, it would not be able to reproduce for the next generation. You would reduce the number of mosquitoes in that generation by about 90%.

It is very difficult to predict what will happen if you remove mosquitoes from the ecosystem, but there are not many organisms that feed on a specific and exclusive mosquito diet. The food chain will hardly be affected by targeting a specific species of mosquito, and not all mosquitoes. All these genetic modifying ideas are extremely specific. You just target one mosquito species at a time, which is very different from insecticides that kill not just all mosquitoes, but all insects, too.

When you release something that has a gene drive, however, could it potentially jump into other organisms, which is a worry of many citizens.


"Zika Virus." N.p., n.d. Web.

"GMOs Didn't Cause Zika Outbreak." FactCheckorg. N.p., 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 13 May 2016.

Powell, Harvard Staff Writer, Alvin. "Deploying Mosquitoes against Zika." Harvard Gazette. N.p., 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 13 May 2016.