UF researchers in Vero Beach study mosquitoes carrying Zika, learn about transmission of virus

Posted at 10:32 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 15:43:33-04

From larvae to adult stage, University of Florida researchers at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory are studying the genetic make up of the Aedes egypti mosquito and how it carries the Zika virus. 

RELATED: More Zika coverage

"We have brought the virus in and we're looking at various aspects of Zika transmission," said Jorge Rey, Director and Professor of the UF lab.

Rey says the mosquitoes are not born with the virus, they contract it after biting an infected person. The virus has to reproduce inside them in order to pass it on to someone else. 

"It's a complicated process that only some mosquitoes can accomplish," added Rey. 

Rey believes we will see more isolated cases of the virus in Palm Beach County outside of the transmission zones in Miami-Dade County because people may be infected and not know it. 

"One of the things with the Zika virus is that most of the people don't even have symptoms. If you're infected you're not home in bed, you're walking around getting bit by more mosquitoes," said Rey. 

Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has come up as a possible solution to reduce the population of Aedes egypti, but Rey believe it won't wipe out Zika. 

"In most of these cases, when something like this happens and a population is reduced or eliminated, something else moves in," said Rey. 

Like the Aedes albopictus, which can also carry disease. Rey said a cold winter could drastically reduce the spread of Zika, but the most effective way to combat the virus is by eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. 

"These are the guys that are going to be breeding in everything that you have around your house that holds water," said Rey as he showed larvae swimming in a container of water. "When these guys become adults and you step out your door, they're going to be right there to bite you."

Rey's team of scientists collected Aedes egypti mosquitoes from the Wynwood area in Miami where the first locally-acquired cases began.

They are studying to see if the mosquitoes have built resistance to insecticide and if there is a way to alter that evolution to make sure they cannot build a tolerance to insecticide sprays.