Health IT Pulse

Feb 18 2016   9:35AM GMT

How technology could stop the spread of the Zika virus

Kristen Lee Kristen Lee Profile: Kristen Lee


While some believe that technology may not be that helpful in tracking the Zika virus, others argue that the technological means to slow or even stop the spread of the Zika virus already exists.

That includes mobile phones, an MIT Technology Review article reported. Cellphones are useful for recording the movements of their owners and that data can be used to then track the disease and disease hot spots, enabling experts to predict where the next flare-up may be. The article states that this has already been done in Africa to battle malaria and in Pakistan to battle dengue fever, both of which are mosquito-borne diseases.

Another way technology may be able to help stop the Zika virus from spreading is with a technology called a “gene drive.”

Built using the gene editing technology called CRISPR (clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats), this technology inserts genes into an organism in a way that enables a genetic trait to spread throughout a whole population, the article said. The gene drive could be created so that the trait that spreads would prevent mosquitoes from incubating the Zika virus, or even destroy the entire species of mosquito that commonly carries the virus. A gene drive for mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite has already been created.

However, many have concerns about gene drives because the technology is essentially interfering with natural selection, the article said. Further, once a drive is released into the wild, there is no turning back.

Another tool that could help stop the Zika virus is Cerus Corporation’s Intercept system for platelets and blood plasma transfusions, a Wired article reported. Ultimately, this technology prevents pathogens from replicating in blood.

However the MIT Technology Review concludes that it is unlikely that just one method will stop the Zika virus.

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