Zika Reservoirs in America?

The newest diseases attacking humans are such that they are transferred from other animals to humans. However, these zoonotic diseases are also able to move from humans to other animals. Even if an infection is completely erased in humans, it can live on in animals, ensuring that the risk of human contamination is never fully removed.

A group of researchers accompanied by an anthropologist from Washington University are striving to deduce if animals in South America have been struck by the disease. They first need a nonintrusive way of testing the animals

An assistant professor, Krista Milich said, “These animals could be reservoirs and humans could then become infected with the virus from the animals,”

The virus can be checked for in bodily fluids. However, access to these samples requires capturing the animals; a dangerous task.

It would be easier to test for the virus in feces, nonetheless, only one research group has succeeded in doing this and they did not publish their methods.

Zika hadn’t been searched for in the Americas until around 2015, probably why there isn’t a method to check for the virus in feces.

Milich states, “That, is because wildlife research is often limited by what assays and what methods have been developed for humans. And for humans, you’re not going to ask for a fecal sample when you can take a blood sample.”

She says, “In feces, the body is breaking things down. … And you have a lot more contaminants. In order to measure things in feces, you have to deal with those contaminants.”

Before going to the field, the team had to ensure its tests were authentic. They took blood, fecal, saliva and urine samples from confined, infected animals.

Researchers tested the blood, urine, and saliva for infection, and then the feces. The results matched; they were able to detect the virus in feces.

The team has moved on to checking samples from the wild. They have obtained samples from approximately 50 animals. These are coming from varying sites.

Till February, samples from Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil had been obtained.

“If the primates are infected with Zika, hopefully, the message will not be these animals are terrible we need to get rid of them,” she stated. “But it will be, we need to respect these wild animals and not come into contact with them.”