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← Science Today: How we Study Zika | California Academy of Sciences

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Showing Revision 4 created 07/21/2017 by Margarida Ferreira.

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  2. We're sequencing Zika viruses,
    here in my lab, to understand
  3. are they different from the Zika viruses
    that have come before?
  4. My role is to look at how the virus genome
  5. has been changing through time,
    and how it might be adapting
  6. to respond to new geographic regions,
    human populations,
  7. and even mosquito populations.
  8. We can use the genotype,
    or the genetic signature, of the viruses
  9. to ask, "Which are they
    most closely related to?"
  10. If we have all of those relatives
    dated by place and time,
  11. it helps us reconstruct the history
    of the viral movement,
  12. and we can also understand better
  13. whether the virus is changing
    through that movement.
  14. We know that Zika virus has been around
    since the late 1940s,
  15. early 1950s, when it was
    first detected in Africa,
  16. and that it's been circulating
    in very low levels,
  17. maybe impacting 10 to 15 people.
  18. It only really became
    a more widespread phenomenon
  19. when it was introduced
  20. into the Pacific island nation
    of Yap in 2007.
  21. Those viruses really
    did impact more people,
  22. and then those viruses
    moved into French Polynesia
  23. and were detected in 2013.
  24. We've found that, essentially,
    the viruses that are in Brazil
  25. came from those same viruses
    that were found in French Polynesia,
  26. and that, since spreading
    outwards from Brazil,
  27. it's a bit of a mishmash;
    it spread so rapidly.
  28. The viruses that preceded
    the Brazil viruses,
  29. and the French Polynesian viruses,
  30. and even the Yap viruses,
    they do come from Africa.
  31. They are a little different.
  32. We don't know the meaning
    of those differences.
  33. We don't know if the genetic mutations
  34. that separate those African viruses
  35. are what has allowed the virus
    to spread so rapidly.
  36. So, those are the kinds of work
    that my lab and others are doing,
  37. to ask how the viruses have been changing,
  38. and what might be the key
    to their own success
  39. in human populations and humans
    living with mosquitoes side by side.
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