A single mutation may explain why Zika suddenly erupted from obscurity to become the alarming re-emerging infectious disease it is today, researchers report in Nature.
According to researchers from Texas and China, the mutation boosts Zika’s ability to hop into feasting mosquitoes that can then shuttle the virus to more victims. Based on archived viral strains, the mutation popped up sometime between the virus’ low-profile outbreaks in Southeastern Asia (which took place in 2007 and 2012) and Zika’s explosive emergence in the Americas beginning in 2015.
“Our data offer a potential explanation for the recent re-emergence of ZIKV [Zika virus],” the authors conclude. And, they go on, the findings suggest that co-evolution between a virus and its vector—mosquitoes, in this case—is just as important for outbreak risk as co-evolution with its hosts—us.