In 2015, the Zika virus, a primarily mosquito-borne virus similar to that which causes dengue fever, spread to South America. It has spread very quickly and widely, reaching pandemic levels.
This is particularly concerning, as researchers have found that the virus may be linked to infant microcephaly, a birth defect in which infants have underdeveloped brains and disproportionate heads.
Before the Zika outbreak had attracted global attention, UConn vaccine researcher Paulo H. Verardi began to work on a possible vaccine. This work is of global importance and UConn is lucky to have researchers such as Verardi that make such positive contributions to global health and scientific knowledge.
Verardi was one of the first researchers in the United States to begin work on a Zika vaccine and, as the Boston Globe reports, two vaccine producers in Connecticut have approached him, looking to work together. While much vaccine research does not result in a successful conclusion, all research contributes to our knowledge of what does not work.
As Verardi remarked, quoted in the Boston Globe, “Everybody working together solves a different little piece of the puzzle.” Verardi’s work as part of global community of researchers seeking to protect future unborn children from the effects of this virus is of immense value.
While he may not personal develop the vaccine, his research and testing will provide valuable knowledge to help the field as whole respond to this crisis.
While Zika is not deadly, as the ebola virus is, its potential effects on infant children of pregnant mothers raises a serious threat for global reproduction and the health and wellbeing of the next generation.
This is a relatively new virus for the world and scientific community to confront. Researchers do not know everything about it yet, but the observed potential link to microcephaly is enough to be concerning. Verardi’s valuable research seeks to prevent the dire consequences the pandemic spread of this virus may lead to.
UConn students and professors should always strive to answer questions and solve problems that the global community is struggling with. Verardi’s work is a clear example of how we, as a community of scholars and researchers can contribute to and work with our peers to make the world a better place for everyone in it.
We are proud to have Verardi and others like him who are living examples of the immensely important work universities do to better the world around us.