Technology giants like Microsoft and Verily have come up with tools to control the spread of Zika and other vector-borne diseases.These firms are now collaborating with public health officials in United States to test these tools, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Microsoft is testing a trap that will isolate and capture Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known to be Zika virus carriers, in Texas. Entomologists will then study the species, which will help them alert outbreaks in advance. Verily is working on a birth control mechanism for mosquitoes. The California-based firm is working to create sterile male mosquitoes to mate with females without hatching eggs.
According to experts, the involvement of these companies has brought new ideas to the table. “It’s exciting when technology companies come on board,” Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, told Reuters. “Their approach to a biological challenge is to engineer a solution.”
The Zika virus
The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito, but can also spread through sexual contact. It generally causes a mild and temporary infection in adults with symptoms such as fever and rashes.
However, Zika infections have also been linked to cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome – a nervous disorder caused by a person’s own immune system attacking nerve cells and causing muscles weakness and sometimes paralysis.
Pregnant women and their foetuses face the biggest danger from the Zika virus. Infections in pregnant women can lead to congenital defects in their newborns, such as microcephaly in which the infant’s brain is small and underdeveloped.
In November 2016, the World Health Organisation had lifted the global health emergency that had been declared since early 2015, following Zika outbreaks in several countries. Brazil was the worst hit, with hundreds of children born with microcephaly.