Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have made what they describe as a breakthrough in fighting the Chikungunya virus.
Over the past few months, the disease has afflicted thousands of persons in the Caribbean, including at least 24 in Jamaica.
A team at the University’s Centre for Virus Research is now looking into ways to prevent transmission of Chikungunya.
Scientists have identified a way of possibly preventing the transmission of Chikungunya.
The mosquito-borne virus has invaded the Caribbean, and now poses a risk of spreading to Central and South America, as well as the south-eastern United States.
In August of this year, the United States Centre for Disease Control reported almost 600-thousand suspected and over 64-hundred confirmed cases of Chik-V in the Americas, just eight months after the disease first appeared in the region.
The last outbreak was in 2006, when the disease struck more than 100-thousand people on the island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
With the aggressive spread of Chikungunya this year, and with no known treatment or cure, researchers around the world are busy working on ways to fight the disease.
Researchers in Scotland are among the first to announce any significant breakthough.
They’ve identified an anti-viral pathway within the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which spreads both Chik-V and Dengue Fever.
Programme Leader at the University’s Centre for Virus Research, Dr. Alain Kohl said it is only a first step, but an important step.
Now that a pathway has been identified, scientists can look for ways of breaking the transmission chain, by either weakening or strengthening the mosquito’s immunity through genetic modification.
Dr. Kohl says they will have to test both methods to see what work’s best.
If successful, the genetically-modified mosquitos will no longer be able to spread Chikungunya.
They will then be released into the environment to reproduce with regular mosquitoes, and eventually reduce or even eliminate the species’ ability to transmit the virus.
Chikungunya is not usually fatal, but can be very painful.
Its symptoms are similar to Dengue Fever; however, survivors often suffer long-term effects, especially joint pain and even arthritis.
Even with thousands of cases documented already, the Caribbean Public Health Authority, CARPHA, has warned that the region is not experiencing the full impact of the disease.
CARPHA says the Caribbean should brace for that eventuality, which could see hundreds of thousands more affected.