Zika expert to headline Science Café at N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences

Matt Collins, MD, PhD, will headline the May 18 Science Café at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. Collins will discuss ongoing diagnostic and vaccine development for the Zika virus currently underway at the UNC School of Medicine.

Zika expert to headline Science Café at N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences click to enlarge Matt Collins, MD, PhD. Photo by Lane Deacon / UNC Health Care.

Media contact: Caroline Curran, caroline.curran@unchealth.unc.edu, (984) 974-1146

CHAPEL HILL, NC – UNC School of Medicine researcher Matt Collins, MD, PhD, will headline the May 18 Science Café at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh.

Collins is an OIA Global Health Scholar and an Infectious Diseases Fellow in the lab of Aravinda de Silva, PhD, professor of immunology and microbiology at the UNC School of Medicine and member of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases. De Silva’s lab, along with colleagues at Duke University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Nicaragua-León, were recently awarded a federal contract for $3.2 million to work in close partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to develop improved serological tests to bolster public health efforts for Zika.

Collins will discuss the lab’s efforts to build a better Zika test, as well as all the other ongoing Zika research currently underway at the UNC School of Medicine.

Currently, much Zika testing is conducted via molecular diagnostics that look for the actual virus in the individual. These tests are most accurate in cases where someone was recently exposed, and, in most cases, are symptomatic. But because approximately 80 percent of people infected with Zika are asymptomatic, there is a critical need for better, more accurate diagnostics for people who are asymptomatic or whose potential exposure goes back weeks, months, or even years. A serological test measures the level of antibodies produced by the body, rather than relying on detection of the viral components or the virus itself. Better diagnostic approaches are urgently needed, particularly ones able to differentiate cases of Zika from related flaviviruses such as dengue fever.  

UNC School of Medicine neuroscientist Flavio Frohlich, PhD, was a speaker at a Science Café in February, which can be viewed here.

The Science Café will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, in The Daily Planet Café, 121 W. Jones St., Raleigh.

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