Scientists say it's probable that they may have documented the first case of a virus contracted by a man who was bitten multiple times by insects and then sexually transmitted to his wife, according to a study published on 'Emerging Infectious Diseases.'
Brian Foy, a biologist with the University of Colorado, visited Senegal on a research project to study and collect mosquitoes in 2008. He and Kevin Kobylinski, his research partner, were bitten numerous times during their stay.
"The two American scientists lived and worked in the village of Bandafassi in southeastern Senegal while performing a mosquito-sampling project in surrounding villages," according to the study published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The report [pdf] says both Foy and Kobylinksi, identified as patients 1 and 2 in the study, exhibited a combination of symptoms of illness, some of which included swollen ankles, a maculopapular rash on the torso, extreme fatigue and headache, fever, light-headedness and chills, wrist and ankle arthalgia, and symptoms of prostatitis (perineal pain and mild dysuria), within days of returning home to Colorado.
"Foy also reported two aphthous ulcers appeared on his lip and signs of hematospermia, a red–brown fluid in his ejaculate, that lasted a few days."
After having sexual intercourse with his wife Joy L. Chilson Foy, a nurse who is identified as patient 3, she began to show clinical symptoms that included malaise, chills, extreme headache, photo-phobia, muscle pain, a rash and an aphthous ulcer inside her lip, that remained for almost a week. She did not have a detectable fever.
According to the CDC, "Direct contact is implicated as the transmission route, most likely as a sexually transmitted infection." Patient 3 had not been to Africa or Asia and had not traveled outside the country in over a year. The onset of symptoms began approximately nine days after patients 1 and 2 returned to the US. Blood testing was conducted but the diagnosis was not made till months later.
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne virus and is similar to dengue, yellow fever, West Nile and Japanese encephalitis.The first documented case of Zika virus in humans was in 1964, the virus was first identified in a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda twenty years earlier. Until a 2007 outbreak of the virus on Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia, the infectious disease had been limited to countries in Africa and Asia.
The most common clinical symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, conjunctivitis, transient arthritis, arthralgia, extreme fatigue and rash, says the CDC.
While Zika is not fatal, there is no known treatment for the disease. Researchers say, "It is posing unusual challenges and has far-ranging public health implications," reports the CDC.
"Because the virus has spread outside Africa and Asia, ZIKV should be considered an emerging pathogen. The discovery of ZIKV on the physically isolated community of Yap Island is testimony to the potential for travel or commerce to spread the virus across large distances. A medical volunteer who was on Yap Island during the ZIKV disease outbreak became ill and was likely viremic with ZIKV upon her return to the United States," where she exhibited symptoms of the disease and was subsequently diagnosed with the Zika virus.
In the Foy's situation "it is reasonable to suspect that infected semen may have passed from patient 1 to patient 3 during coitus. Another possibility is that direct contact and exchange of other bodily fluids, such as saliva, could have resulted in ZIKV transmission, but illness did not develop in the 4 children of patients 1 and 3 during this time," says the study.
The report states this is the first time a human sexual transmission of an arbovirus has been documented.