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Editorial: UNM takes a bite out of Zika

Zika doesn’t strike quite the terror that the deadly Ebola does, but the virus is spreading quickly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a public warning about the Zika virus, which could be linked to serious birth defects, such as microcephaly, in babies born to women infected with the virus. There are now more than 80 travel-related cases in the United States.

Before 2015 the mosquito-borne virus was found only in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The CDC says it is now in many countries and will continue to spread. But there is hope for preventing that.

University of New Mexico School of Medicine researchers believe they have come up with a simple but effective response. Instead of putting chemicals in standing water where mosquitoes breed, or spraying pesticides in the air, they advocate feeding mosquitoes one of their favorite foods – yeast – injected with lemon grass oil, which is lethal to mosquito larvae. It’s cheap, nontoxic and would be fairly easy to put together in the field, which would be especially helpful in poor countries with few resources.

Researchers in a lab at UNM’s Center for Global Health – Dr. Ravi Durvasula, Dr. Scott Matthews and Ivy Hurwitz – have run small-scale tests and plan to seek a patent but need a partner to test it on a larger scale.

Hats off to this UNM team for its work on a potential solution to a serious global problem.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.