EDIT 3 Thanks for all the great & interesting questions REDDIT! That's me all finished up. Have a great evening!

EDIT 2 Hi Guys, it's Dr Claire Donald, and I'm back due to popular demand! I'll try and answer a few more of your questions. Thanks for all the interest!

EDIT Thanks to everyone who joined in! We're all finished up here now, but our ZIKA research at the University of Glasgow will continue.

My short bio: I am Dr Alain Kohl, the programme leader of the Kohl Group at the MRC UofG Centre for Virus Research, which is currently conducting research into the spread of the Zika virus. The group, which also includes Dr Claire Donald (joining me today), has secured a number of pieces of Zika funding, including several recent awards from the Medical Research Council. Members of the group frequently travel to Brazil to work with colleagues there to better understand and combat the virus. I have also appeared in the media as a Zika expert, including on BBC Radio and on ITV News.

ITV News: http://www.itv.com/news/update/2016-02-04/scientists-in-scotland-join-battle-against-zika-virus/

My Proof: http://imgur.com/CgM0MQK More Proof: TWITTER: https://twitter.com/UofGlasgow/status/748077345576263680 FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/glasgowuniversity/videos/1303345199685192/

For more on the Kohl Group: http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/iii/cvr/staff/groups/kohlgroup
For more on our current Zika funding: http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_452965_en.html

Comments: 271 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

InterestedInPies100 karma

It's been shown that Zika can be transmitted sexually, and is detectable in semen 60< days after infection. Do you think that it has the ability to become as wide-spread as another STD such as HIV?

UofGlasgow119 karma

Zika is very different from viruses such as HIV, where sexual transmission is an important route of spreading the virus. For example, female to male transmission has not been documented for Zika. The main route of transmission in affected areas is by mosquito so these viruses don't compare.

sixbrow52 karma

Glasgow Uni student here, How worried should we be about Zika, especially in relation to the olympics? And how much has Glasgow Universiry contributed to Zika Research? Is it significant enough to potentially lead to a break through?

And how much do you love Glasgow?

UofGlasgow60 karma

Last question first....Glasgow is amazing! And yes we hope to make a substantial contribution given our experience and also some of the recent funding we obtained at Glasgow Uni. We are trying our very best. Olympics- people need to take precautions and there is good advice on the PHE website. But if we were athletes (beyond table football) we would go.

Libbyrose10434 karma

Hi! I've heard people say Zika didn't use to be a particularly dangerous virus. What's changed and why did that change happen? Thanks!

UofGlasgow43 karma

In the past no one really looked really very well. We believe that most infections do not show any clinical symptoms of disease. When symptoms do develop symptoms are very similar to other viruses spread by the same mosquitoes e.g. dengue so misdiagnosis may also be common. The recent outbreaks have seen cases of neurological symptoms and we are still working on understanding why this happens. But as is often the case, the increased number of infections also shows previously undetected or undescribed symptoms.

lula248833 karma

When is the least appropriate time to do jazz hands?

UofGlasgow131 karma

When trying to kill a mosquito with precision.

Langers2518 karma

Hi! I am thinking of travelling to Central America early next year but I am worried about the risks to future pregnancies - should I be?

UofGlasgow12 karma

Hello, there's a large amount of of information on the PHE website, and your GP can advise. Generally speaking if travelling to areas with vector borne diseases you should always take protective measures as dengue, chikunguya are present depending where you go, and these infections should be avoided generally.

bonafidegiggles12 karma

I'm curious as to the lasting affects. Say she is not getting pregnant soon, but about a year afterwards. Or two. Will the virus still be a factor?

UofGlasgow11 karma

According to current evidence, it is believed that Zika virus infection in a woman who isn't pregnant shouldn't cause a risk for defects in future pregnancies after the virus has passed from the blood. From what is known in other infections, someone infected with Zika virus is most likely to be protected against future infections of Zika virus.

getclaireified15 karma

Hi! I am a former US health department employee and graduate school student who has studied a lot about Cytomegalovirus. I recently worked on a campaign where we compared Zika virus to Cytomegalovirus. Both are viruses, fever-rash illnesses, both cause neurological impairment (CMV known for causing microcephaly). Cytomegalovirus has a much higher prevalence than Zika (though I am not sure if that is lack of unreported cases or not). I was just curious if in your research you delved into research about Cytomegalovirus since they were very similar in nature. I was also wondering if there was ever a cure or treatment for Zika if it would be able to help those who have CMV or vis versa. Do they overlap enough for research in one virus to be helpful for the other? I just wanted to know your thoughts. I am very interested in CMV and hope to do my research thesis in the area. Thanks for the interesting AMA, I've enjoyed reading about your studies and expertise.

UofGlasgow11 karma

It is true that Zika and CMV do result in similar clinical outcomes following an infection during pregnancy- including microcephaly- however these viruses are from different families (Zika is a flavivirus and CMV is a herpesvirus) and have different routes of transmission (Zika through mosquito bites and CMV via bodily fluids). CMV is much more widespread and has a longer history of research then zika currently. However clinical models of CMV may be useful for cases of Zika infection during pregnancy.

_mouse_9615 karma

What are your thoughts about the beer bar ditching Tennents and only serving Carling and Coors next year?

UofGlasgow105 karma

You should drink gin and tonic to make yourself less attractive to mosquitoes due to the quinine in the tonic

Libbyrose10411 karma

What's the "missing link" in Zika research at the moment? Where do we have to focus resources next?

UofGlasgow9 karma

Developing effective treatments and vaccines to treat Zika infections are a very high priority for a number of research groups around the world. Same for effective vector control. There is still a lot that we don't know about the virus but field studies of mosquitoes and viral ecology (also in Africa) would potentially give us a lot of new information. Understanding the virus has been evolving in the past may also help us learn about where it may end up "going".

patentclerk19057 karma

Is there really a risk of Zika virus this coming Rio Olympics that made some athletes decide not to play?

UofGlasgow13 karma

We couldn't say that there is no risk of becoming infected- but it's also about risk levels. There are experts on the ground monitoring the situation and advise accordingly, and this is communicated via PHE etc. Of course it's a personal decision in the end.

obtusepossum6 karma

viruses associated with dibilitating disease which are also capable of causing large scale epidemics such as Zika, yellow fever, dengue etc. seem to arise primarily in tropical regions. Why is this?

UofGlasgow10 karma

In the case of arboviruses that has to do with diversity of insects or other vectors that can transmit them, vertebrate hosts, ecological settings etc. But arboviruses are present in Europe too- for example tick borne louping ill virus in the UK and Ireland (although rare and mainly affecting agriculture i.e. sheep or grouse), Schallenberg virus which transmitted by midges and emerged in Germany, blue tongue virus which also affected virus...

nano-ms6 karma

UofGlasgow5 karma

Even researchers shop online! There are a number of archives that store important biological material (including viruses) that researchers might require for their work. These help to facilitate and advance research that would not be able to occur without access to these materials.

jar50254 karma

I'm going to Peru and Chile this November for vacation. Should I be worried?

When I first read about this virus, it didn't seem so scary. It sounds like it goes away after a few weeks and as long as I don't impregnate somebody during that time (I'm male) then I would be fine (aside from getting sic maybe?).

UofGlasgow3 karma

Currently Chile is not reporting any active Zika infections however Peru is. You should follow advice from the WHO/ CDC/ PHE etc who ask travellers to areas with Zika are advised to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Due to the risk of sexual transmission you are also advised to take precautions when having sexual intercourse for 8 weeks after returning. If you develop any Zika associated symptoms you should see a healthcare professional.

rbevans4 karma

What are your thoughts about the Zika virus is actually being transmitted from how water is being treated in Brazil and not from mosquitoes?

UofGlasgow16 karma

We really don't think there is anything to back up such theories.

JDocco4 karma

How integral is Tim Mottram to the team? Is his work meaningful or is his only use being a PA coffee maker?

UofGlasgow2 karma

His work is exceptional and we could not manage without him

flyinggreenchimp4 karma

Hi, what is the difference between Zika and malaria? Why is Zika worst in Brazil?

UofGlasgow23 karma

First of all malaria is a complex of parasites, Plasmodium- while Zika is a virus so these are structurally and biologically very different. Moreover both are transmitted by different mosquitoes- Anopheles for malaria parasites and mainly Aedes spec mosquitoes for Zika. Why is Zika worst in Brazil? First of it's a large country with poverty and favourable conditions including presence of Aedes mosquitoes, but the effects such as Guillain Barre have now also been described retrospectively in the French Polynesia outbreak. So it's not that the virus may have been harmless before, it's perhaps just a matter of recognising and diagnosis.

YouthInRevolt3 karma

I live in Haiti and I'm pretty sure I've already had Zika however it wasn't nearly as bad as Chikungunya. That said I got it a few months ago and I'm curious to know how long it might stay in my system?

UofGlasgow4 karma

About 80% of Zika infections are thought to be asymptomatic and do not show any clinical signs although most people infected with chikungunya will develop symptoms which are severe and debilitating. Typical Zika disease presents as a mild disease.
Diagnosing Zika infections is achieved by testing the blood or urine. The virus has been found in blood for around 3-5 days after the onset of symptoms although in the urine its been found after about 2 weeks. In the semen it has been found to present after 2 months.

Bellevert3 karma

How likely is a cure for the zika virus to also remove the risk for future pregnancies? Are you taking the fact that this is disease is sexually transferred into the outbreak models?

UofGlasgow4 karma

Developing effective treatments and preventative vaccines to treat Zika infections are a very high priority for a number of research groups around the world. There are a couple of vaccine candidates that are currently being developed that look promising but it will be still be some time before we have human trials. The risk of sexual transmission is much lower than for mosquito transmission but is of course important to take it into account- in particular in regions without local populations of mosquitoes which can spread the virus.

Waqqy3 karma


Glasgow uni student here who was at the Zika talk a couple weeks ago. I asked a question but the second part wasn't answered.

Do we know anything about the immunological mechanisms by which zika causes microencephalitis and also the mechanisms of infection? (which cell types infected, virus lifecycle etc.)


UofGlasgow4 karma

I'm sorry I did not answer your question fully at the Zika past, present, future talk last week - we had so many questions! I hope you enjoyed it despite this.

There is a lot of work by many groups that are working to understand why some Zika strains are associated with microcephaly and other developmental problems while others do not. Zika virus has been found in amniotic fluid and in tissues of foetuses. Microcephaly is a condition affecting the central nervous system which is made up of various cell types ( including astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, macrophages and neurons). Research is ongoing to establish which cells are affected and how the infection impacts on disease symptoms. We do know from recent publications that macrophages in the placenta are infected by Zika virus and can induce an antiviral and proinflammatory response.

tastycrumpet2 karma

A few months ago, I saw that people thought the links to birth defects were from the chemicals used in the water, not from the Zika virus itself. Are these claims true? Is there a link to the chemical causing it, and is there a link (apart from statistics) between Zika and birth defects?

UofGlasgow3 karma

There is no evidence that chemicals in water, such as Larvicides to kill mosquito larvae, affect pregnancies or the development of unborn fetuses. However, there are an increasing number of studies which show that Zika virus is the cause of fetal brain development defects including microcephaly. The virus has been shown to cross the placenta and has been found in the tissues of fetuses, including in the brain of aborted fetuses with severe microcephaly. Studies has also shown the virus can easily infect brain cells and in Zika mouse models the damage to the brain was much greater in very young mice compared to older mice.

RocktimusCrime2 karma

Getting married in Cancun in a month. One of my groomsmen is an Infectious Disease pharmacist at a major hospital in Dallas; one bridesmaid's husband is a post-doc flavovirus researcher at Vanderbilt University specializing in H5N1, Chikungunya, and the Coronavirus.

Is there anything you, as a specialist in Zika, feel I should be aware of besides general protective measures such as deet, quinine, longer clothing, and avoiding places where standing water is likely to occur?

UofGlasgow5 karma

Sounds like you have some good people on hand to advise you! At the moment in the absence of a preventative vaccine or treatment the best way to avoid Zika infections is the prevention of mosquito bites- keeping covered and wearing mosquito repellents.

Graytemplar2 karma

Could you explain like I'm five the relation of Zika to the Guillain-Barre syndrome?

It's been described to me as similar to the relationship between HIV an AIDS, but from what I understand it's more complicated than that.

UofGlasgow3 karma

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare condition affecting the nervous system were an individual's own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness in arms and legs. This may sometimes cause paralysis. GBS can be triggered by a variety of viral and bacterial infections and is also very likely triggered by Zika in a small number of infections. Work is currently ongoing to show if GBS is caused directly by Zika virus infection or by the bodies immune response to the infection.

hisglasses552 karma

Thank you for the AMA!
Do we have any insights into the consequences of releasing genetically modified mosquitoes? I would love to hear about some of the cons, because as far as I know this seems like a starting point to controlling vector populations.

UofGlasgow13 karma

Developing effective vector control methods is incredibly important not just for Zika but for all arthropod transmitted viruses. The release of genetically modified mosquitoes is one approach which have proved to be very successful in current lab and field trials. Mosquitoes which are infected with a bacteria (Wolbachia) (although that is not a GM approach but very promising) and male mosquitoes carrying a lethal gene which kills any offspring before adulthood have shown to have positive results. The release experiments require approval and there are many hurdles to jump through. This could be a very important addition to our control strategies for fighting transmission.

Advicefromadistance1 karma

Whats the best part of your job?

Whats the worst part of your job?

What advice would you give those looking to become researchers?

UofGlasgow5 karma

I would say the best part of being a researcher is when you get 'that' result and you are the first person in the world to know it. The worst part is when your experiment fails after you have put a lot of love and time into it. Advice to people looking to become researchers would be to be very selective about which projects you do and go to a good group that publishes well- but also know how to have fun!

quaoarpower1 karma

What is the northern limit of countries that have autochthonous Zika infections?

UofGlasgow2 karma

The WHO reports that, as of the 23rd June 2016, there are 61 countries that report mosquito transmission of Zika virus. The most northern would be Mexico and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. France, Italy and the United States of America have reported locally acquired Zika virus infection in the absence of any known mosquito vectors.

I_hate_your_nose1 karma

Is it true that only one species (Aedes Aegypti?) of mosquito can carry the Zika virus? If so (or if not so), what's the risk of spreading the disease to the rest of the world via the tourists going to Brazil for the Olympic Games and whose home countries don't have the "right" mosquito?

UofGlasgow3 karma

Aedes aegypti is a major mosquito for transmission but all aedes species of mosquitoes are able to carry and transmitted Zika virus. This also includes Aedes albopictus which, along with Aedes aegypti, are important mosquitoes for the spread of other important mosquito -borne viruses such as dengue and chikungunya viruses. The number of tourists heading to the Olympics this summer in Brazil is much lower than the the number of people who have already visited a Zika infected country and returned home to their country. As a result Zika virus has already been found in most countries already. In addition Aedes spp. mosquitoes also have a global distribution and are found extensively in most continents. This increases the global spread of all the viruses that they carry- including Zika virus.