Zika virus could be transmitted by more mosquito species than those currently known, according to a new predictive model created by ecologists at the University of Georgia and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Their findings, published today in the journal eLife, offer a list of 26 additional potential candidate species-including seven that occur in the continental United States-that the authors suggest should be the first priority for further research. “The biggest take home message is that these are the species that we need to prioritize,” said lead author Michelle V. Evans, a UGA doctoral student in ecology and conservation. “Especially as we’re in the slower part of the mosquito season, now is the time to catch up so we’re prepared for the summer.” Targeting Zika’s potential vectors-species that can transmit the virus from one host to another-is an urgent need, given its explosive spread and the devastating health effects associated with it. It’s also time-consuming and expensive, requiring the collection of mosquitoes in affected areas, testing them to see which ones are carrying the virus, and conducting laboratory studies. The new model could streamline the initial step of pinpointing Zika vectors.
University of Georgia