An innovative approach to battling Zika you should know about.
Soon, the solution to Zika could arrive in something as simple as a takeout box.
For the past several years, researchers in Australia have been at work trying to develop a way to put a stop to dengue, a virus that — like Zika — is spread by way of a certain breed of mosquitoes.
The result is what's called a Mozzie Box, and Susan Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recently demonstrated how it works.
The Mozzie Box works by intentionally breeding disease carrying mosquitos, with a twist.
In the Mozzie Box, Aedes mosquitoes — the same kind that transmit diseases like Zika, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and more — are bred.
And how exactly is breeding more mosquitoes the solution to a mosquito-borne illness?
The Mozzie Box mosquito eggs contain a bacteria called Wolbachia, which renders the grown mosquitoes essentially harmless (minus a few itchy bites here and there).
In other words:
When the Mozzie Box mosquitoes fly off into the wild and begin mating, the Wolbachia bacteria is transmitted to their offspring.
That bacteria will then be passed down to future generations.
As time goes on, fewer mosquitoes will have the capability to carry Zika (or those other diseases), and the virus will become much less of an issue.
There are times when science can be so freaking cool, and this is definitely one of them.
The key to stopping Zika might lie in mosquito STDs. How cool is that?
But why is it so important to take steps like these? For one:
The 2016 Summer Olympics are scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, one of the areas hit hardest by Zika.
A number of athletes, such as Spanish basketball star Pau Gasol, have expressed concern over the virus and are considering skipping the games.
Despite the worry, the World Health Organization has advised against cancelling or moving the Olympics, writing, "Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 countries in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games."
So even though the Olympics may go on as planned, that doesn't make the virus any less worrisome for the world as a whole.
The most common concern is that mothers who contract Zika may give birth to babies with microcephaly, a condition where a baby is born with a much smaller head than expected.
Help from governments sometimes seems out of reach, making finding a solution in the private sector that much more important.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden delivered an emotional call to the U.S. Congress, pleading for them to take the threat of Zika seriously.
"Imagine that you’re standing by and you see someone drowning, and you have the ability to stop them from drowning, but you can’t," Frieden said. "Now multiply that by 1,000 or 100,000. That’s what it feels like to know how to change the course of an epidemic and not be able to do it."
Maybe Mozzie Boxes will help bring an end to Zika and other dangerous diseases. Maybe they'll inspire others to take up important innovative work. Maybe they'll help make the world a better place, now and for future generations.
There's already been so much progress in how we treat, prevent, and test for dangerous diseases. Here's hoping that such innovation continues.
You can watch Susan Desmond-Hellmann's Mozzie Box demonstration below: