The evolution and effects of the Zika virus are currently closely monitored by researchers in Wisconsin thanks to an experiment. The scientists have injected a pregnant monkey with the virus in hope that this might aid them in finding more details about the virus.
The rhesus macaque was injected last Monday, and the experiment will offer us all an insight into the effects of Zika on the unborn fetus. Updates will regularly be posted by the team, including information about blood tests and ultrasounds, but also, the amount of Zika found in the amniotic fluid.
Dave O’Connor is the one who leads the study, also a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor. Together with his colleagues, they have been planning such an experiment for months. It all started when O’Connor visited Rio de Janeiro and saw numerous pregnant women on the streets. This proved to him that the risk of Zika was immense and thus determined him to take action.
In order to voice the severity of the issue, the team of researchers has decided to make their progress public, releasing new information about the events as they unfold. However, the field of biology is usually much more secretive. The normal development of such a study involved collecting data and analyzing it. Next, they might or might not be presented during a conference or published in a scientific journal. It usually takes about a year for the findings to be released to the grand public.
Even in the serious emergency of Zika journals take weeks or months to publish relevant discoveries. However, O’Connor preferred to take another path. By conducting the experiment publicly, he also gave other experts the opportunity of contacting him and suggesting various courses of action. Not to mention that faster results might end this crisis sooner.
The experiment was praised by The Scripps Research Institute biologist Kristian Andersen, who also worked on the Ebola outbreak. Andersen used to make genetic information public 48 hours later after obtaining it.
University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and co-author of the study, Thomas Friedrich, believes that
“You’re seeing a shift, as you are in many other aspects of culture, where information can be shared much more broadly and much more quickly than it ever could before. Part of what we’re testing here is the viability of real-time public data sharing.”
While the world of science might take some time before agreeing on the matter, the rest of the world will surely follow the development of the experiment with interest.
Image Source: TIME