ICGEB Working Group on Zika Virus

In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus outbreak in South and Central American a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). A coordinated international response is foreseen in order to concentrate resources on disease surveillance, mosquito control and research in an attempt to control the spread of infection in the Americas and beyond.

The ICGEB, with its mandate to support science for the benefit its Member countries, has mobilized its resources against Zika. Building on the in-house expertise of its scientists working on arboviruses. The ICGEB has established an international working group on Zika with the purpose of promoting research and development for the fight of the disease as well as offering fellowships, grants and workshops for scientists from Member States, which include many of those countries implicated in the current situation report on Zika.

Groups working on arboviruses at ICGEB

Sujahtha Sunil, who leads the Vector-Borne Diseases Group at ICGEB New Delhi, is already collaborating with the local hospital for the molecular and serological identification of suspected Zika cases. Dr. Sunil’s group  performed a thorough analysis of the genetic divergence of Zika virus genomes from the 2015-2016 outbreaks.

The manuscript was posted in the context of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern declared by the Director-General of the World Health Organization. The data in these papers are freely available for unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original work is properly cited as indicated by the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Intergovernmental Organizations license (CC BY IGO 3.0).


Navin Khanna is head of Recombinant Gene Products Group at ICGEB New Delhi and is interested in viral diagnostics and vaccine development.

Alessandro Marcello, who leads the Molecular Virology Group at ICGEB Trieste, is also collaborating for the setup of Zika diagnosis and is currently investigating the cellular host response to Zika infection.

Oscar Burrone is ICGEB Emeritus Senior Scientist of Molecular Immunology at ICGEB and works on basic immunology and novel vaccine strategies.

Read more: Facts about Zika virus

The ICGEB organised the V Workshop on Human RNA Viruses in Costa Rica, 12-14 December 2016.

Tatjana Avšič from the Laboratory of Diagnostics and Zoonoses and WHO Centre, Institute of Microbiology and Immunology of the University of Ljubliana, Slovenia, presented a seminar at ICGEB Trieste on ‘Emerging and re-emerging viral infections: our experiences.

In this presentation she talks about her work in the field and how in only a few months they could prove infection of the brain in the fetus from a woman who became infected by Zika virus during pregnancy, demonstrating for the first time vertical transmission and association with microcephaly [Mlakar J. et al. Zika virus associated with microcephaly. N Engl J Med. 2016 Mar 10;374(10):951-8].