NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - Iona College hosted Scott C. Weaver, Ph.D., a noted virologist for its second talk in the 2016-17 Thomas G. Bullen, Ph.D., CFC, Memorial Lecture Series in Science and Technology. Dr. Weaver discussed "Zika Virus: Evolution, Transmission Cycles and Emergence Mechanisms" on December 1 at Murphy Auditorium.
In the hour-long presentation, Dr. Weaver reviewed the origins and history of Zika virus as determined by molecular genetic studies, along with the factors involved in its recent, rapid spread. He also discussed epidemiologic and basic research being conducted to test competing hypotheses to explain Zika virus’ dramatic spread and the sudden appearance of nervous system disease, to predict future trends, and to develop control measures as well as therapies to protect against severe outcomes of infection; and the risk for further transmission and spread within the U.S. and elsewhere will be discussed along with strategies to control the pandemic.
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus discovered in Uganda in 1947 and remained obscure until 2007. It has caused a recent series of explosive outbreaks in the Pacific Ocean basin and arrived for the first time in the Americas in late 2013. Since 2015, Zika virus has initiated its first major Western Hemispheric epidemic with spread to 46 countries and territories including the United States and the recognition that it is causes several severe neurologic diseases including Guillain Barré syndrome (GBS), a disease that paralyzes peripheral nerves, and congenital microcephaly, or severe underdevelopment of the fetal brain.
Although most Zika virus transmission involves the peridomestic mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti and possibly also the invasive species Aedes albopictus, chronic sexual transmission, mainly from men to women, has also been documented in travelers returning to non-endemic regions. In the Americas, Zika virus infections have been associated with hundreds of GBS cases and also with over 1,600 confirmed cases of fetal microcephaly coincident in time and space with Zika virus circulation.
Dr. Weaver is director of the University of Texas Medical Branch Institute for Human Infections and Immunity and the Scientific Director of the Galveston National Laboratory. Formerly the vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology, Dr. Weaver currently holds the John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Human Infections and Immunity. He is also a member of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Institute for Translational Science, and a Core Member of the Sealy Center for Structural Biology.
Dr. Weaver is an internationally recognized virologist and vector biologist with more than 250 publications in prestigious scientific journals and many invited presentations at international meetings. He is the recipient of numerous NIH, DTRA, DHS and DARPA grants, and a W.M. Keck Foundation award. Dr. Weaver holds leadership positions in a number of national and international scientific societies and professional organizations.
His high standing in the scientific community is also indicated by his service on national and international committees and study sections, and many editorial responsibilities. He has served an associate editor for PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and PLoS Pathogens, editor for Archives of Virology, section editor (virology, vector biology) for the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and an editorial board member of the Journal of Virology and Current Opinion in Virology, among others.
In addition, he holds five patents in vaccine development. Dr. Weaver teaches extensively and is the Leon Bromberg Professor for Excellence in Teaching. He earned his bachelor's degree from The College of William and Mary in 1979, his master's in entomology from Cornell University in 1982, and a Ph.D. in virology from the University of California, San Diego, in 1993. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine, he joined the UTMB faculty in 1994.