Lobel and a handful of other virologists around the world are stepping up research of arboviruses to try to understand why they may be getting more serious.
Since last May, a Zika virus outbreak in Brazil has coincided with an alarming increase in birth defects including microcephaly, an abnormally small brain.
More than 1.5 million Brazilians are infected, including some 2,000 pregnant women, and the virus is spreading explosively in Colombia, with cases also in El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
The World Health Organization convened an emergency committee to discuss the pandemic expected to affect three to four million people, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women to avoid visiting countries where Zika has been reported.
In response to this deepening crisis, Israeli virologist Dr. Leslie Lobel and a handful of colleagues around the world are stepping up their research of Zika and other arboviruses, so called because they are borne by arthropods, especially mosquitos.
Lobel has worked for several years with Ugandan scientists who have been collecting insects in the Zika Forest of Uganda to study the viruses they carry. Recently they have been investigating if arboviruses have any impact on other serious diseases such as deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses, Lobel’s main area of research.