CDC announces $10 million grant to four Florida universities for Zika research

December 23, 2016 by Kyra Gurney, Miami Herald

Florida has been the epicenter for Zika in the United States and is now poised to become a national hub for efforts to fight the virus.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a $10 million grant to four Florida universities for research on how to keep the Zika virus from spreading. The grant will fund a collaboration between the University of Florida, the University of Miami, Florida International University and the University of South Florida to study Zika and other diseases spread by vectors such as mosquitoes.

Lead researcher Rhoel Dinglasan at the University of Florida said the state is a logical choice for the new research center, named the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease, because the state is often the gateway for mosquito-borne disease outbreaks in the United States.

"There's so much movement within our state. That's not just Floridians, there's also movement from other places into our state," he said. "Mosquitoes are well-traveled. They don't need a passport."

The recent Zika outbreak started in Latin America in 2015. The first locally spread cases in the continental United States were reported in a one-square mile area in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood in July. Shortly afterward, the CDC issued a travel advisory urging pregnant women to stay away from the area because the virus can cause birth defects. As Zika spread to other parts of Miami-Dade, including Miami Beach, efforts to study the disease sped up. New cases in South Florida have slowed considerably and the last Zika zone was lifted on Miami Beach earlier this month.

With the $10 million CDC grant, which is part of close to $184 million in funding that the CDC announced Thursday would go toward efforts to protect Americans from the virus, researchers in Florida say they will be able to test the most effective methods for mosquito control.

"This will give Florida the ability to evaluate new approaches to mosquito control that haven't been tried in the U.S. yet," said Matthew DeGennaro, a researcher at FIU who is part of the new center. "The coordination and the collaboration and the money that is provided will, I think, make Florida's response to any mosquito-borne illness better."

FIU is testing a bait that lures female mosquitoes to lay eggs in a trap, while the University of Miami has developed a toxic sugar bait that they have previously tested in Africa, but now plan to test locally. UF intends to use its mathematical modeling capabilities to measure the effectiveness of the different mosquito-control efforts tested by its research partners.

This level of collaboration between major universities is unusual, according to the researchers. "I think the CDC is really making something unique happen here in Florida. The academic world is trying to respond to this crisis and I think that we can work together with mosquito control and all of these different groups," DeGennaro said.

The universities also plan to use part of the CDC grant to train workers and public health and biology students, putting their research into practice. The grant will be used over a five-year period, but researchers recognize that the clock is ticking to prevent the virus from spreading northward.

"If we fail at our gate then it will enter the rest of the United States," Dinglasan said.

Explore further: Health officials clear part of Miami Beach Zika zone

Related Stories

Health officials clear part of Miami Beach Zika zone

November 22, 2016
Florida health officials have cleared part of the Miami Beach Zika transmission zone.

Another Miami neighborhood now zika-free

December 3, 2016
(HealthDay)—The Little River section of Miami is no longer an area where local Zika infection is active, Florida health officials reported Friday.

Local Zika cases spread to Miami Beach: reports

August 19, 2016
Miami Beach now has cases of Zika infection that appear to have been locally transmitted, US media reported on Thursday, suggesting that the mosquito-borne virus is spreading in Florida.

First mosquitoes carrying Zika detected in US

September 2, 2016
Tests have found the Zika virus in mosquitoes from Miami, the first detected on continental United States, confirming local transmission of the disease, the Florida authorities said.

Officials: South Beach halts Zika's spread, but risks remain

December 9, 2016
Florida declared its crisis with local transmission of Zika over for the season Friday in a welcome announcement ahead of peak tourism months, but health authorities warned that travelers would continue bringing the disease ...

New Zika zone identified in Miami

October 13, 2016
Florida has identified a new area in Miami where the mosquito-borne Zika virus is being transmitted locally, in addition to a previously described zone in Miami Beach, officials said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Anti-malaria drug shows promise as Zika virus treatment

November 17, 2017
A new collaborative study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and UC San Diego School of Medicine has found that a medication used to prevent and treat malaria may also be effective ...

Decrease in sunshine, increase in Rickets

November 17, 2017
A University of Toronto student and professor have teamed up to discover that Britain's increasing cloudiness during the summer could be an important reason for the mysterious increase in Rickets among British children over ...

Scientists identify biomarkers that indicate likelihood of survival in infected patients

November 17, 2017
Scientists have identified a set of biomarkers that indicate which patients infected with the Ebola virus are most at risk of dying from the disease.

Research team unlocks secrets of Ebola

November 16, 2017
In a comprehensive and complex molecular study of blood samples from Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, published today (Nov. 16, 2017) in Cell Host and Microbe, a scientific team led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has ...

Study raises possibility of naturally acquired immunity against Zika virus

November 16, 2017
Birth defects in babies born infected with Zika virus remain a major health concern. Now, scientists suggest the possibility that some women in high-risk Zika regions may already be protected and not know it.

A structural clue to attacking malaria's 'Achilles heel'

November 16, 2017
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) have shed light on how the human immune system recognizes the malaria parasite though investigation of antibodies generated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.