You probably know viruses as the demons behind your nasty cold, the not-quite-living monsters that infiltrate cells and plug in their own genetic material. But the horrible little buggers might have been crucial to forming the cells in our own bodies today.
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Earlier today, the World Health Organisation declared that the Zika virus, along with its related neurological complications, no longer constitutes an international emergency. The announcement is a troubling development that could threaten important research, while also undermining those who are most affected, namely women, children and the poor.
Scientists have learned that upwards of 25 per cent of all people who become infected with Ebola show none of the typical symptoms. The finding suggests the recent West African Ebola Epidemic was more widespread than previously thought, and that new methods need to be developed to diagnose and contain the dreaded virus during an outbreak.
British red squirrels are being afflicted by a medieval strain of leprosy that was thought to have disappeared from Europe over 700 years ago, according to a new DNA analysis. Researchers say the chances of the dreaded disease spreading to humans is low, but the discovery suggests this strain of leprosy has been lingering for quite some time.
Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that 10 more people in Florida have contracted the Zika virus, likely through mosquito bites, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 14 cases. Citing the increase, the governor also asked the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to mobilise an Emergency Response Team to help the state with its "investigation, sample collection and mosquito control efforts".
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that Zika-infected women who are in their third trimester have virtually no chance of having children with microcephaly. Troublingly, the same study shows that women who exhibit no symptoms can still give birth to babies with brain abnormalities.
In preparation for the upcoming Olympics in Brazil, a British long jump champion is planning to freeze his sperm just in case he contracts Zika. It's meant as a precaution to prevent any future children from developing birth defects, but in reality it's a complete overreaction based on unfounded fears.
While the West African Ebola Outbreak largely came to an end back in January, isolated cases are still appearing, including two cases which emerged this week in Guinea.
Mimiviruses are viruses so big they can actually be seen with a simple light microscope. European scientists have now learned that these bizarre organisms have their own immune system that makes them virtually invulnerable to predatory viruses, suggesting these creatures may actually represent a new branch in the tree of life.
The White House is asking Congress for $US1.8 billion to combat the Zika virus, both within the United States and abroad. This request is a heartening sign that the Obama administration is taking Zika seriously. But don't worry, it's not a sign that the US is bracing itself for a local mass outbreak.
Zika is now a global emergency, and the latest in a long string of mosquito-borne viruses to afflict humanity. Mosquitoes truly suck, and the time has come to do something about them. Here's how science will help — and why a war on mosquitoes doesn't mean we have to wipe them off the face of the planet.
After convening an emergency session to deal with the swift spread of the Zika virus, the World Health Organisation has declared the mosquito-borne outbreak a global emergency.