The alarming spread of the Zika virus is prompting a Baltimore-based research collective to launch a global task force to study the virus.
The Global Virus Network (GVN) is based at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is made up of 35 Centers of Excellence and five affiliate sites across 26 countries.These are the world's leading virus researchers. Through the task force, these scientists are collaborating and sharing information to develop the best response to combating the mosquito-transmitted virus.
Dr. Robert Gallo is co-founder of GVN and director of the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore.
"We need research on this, what's the mechanism for how it causes the neurologic disease?" he said. "Perhaps more importantly, what's the mechanism of transmission, how is it transmitted human to human? How big a problem will that be?"
Children and adults infected with the Zika virus typically have mild symptoms or none at all. The biggest concern is for pregnant women, as there is evidence the virus can cause serious neurological problems in newborns. Scientists have found it's possible to spread the virus through blood transfusions and sexual contact.
Some of the GVN researchers are already working to develop a Zika vaccine, which Dr. Gallo believes is definitely possible.
Maryland confirmed its first Zika virus case just last week. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 52 cases in the U.S. linked to travel overseas to Central and South America and the Caribbean.