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Emory researchers gearing up to fight Zika

Media Contact

Holly Korschun

As Zika emerges as a new threat to public health, researchers are working to better understand the virus and how it is transmitted. Emory University faculty with expertise in disease ecology, global health, infectious diseases, and drug and vaccine development are available to help explain issues related to the virus’s spread and the potential threat it poses.

Uriel Kitron, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Emory University, is a disease ecologist specialized in vector-borne diseases, those spread by mosquitoes, ticks and other organisms. Kitron has ongoing research projects in Brazil and other areas of Latin America for the dengue virus, which is spread by Aedes aegypti, the same species of mosquito that transmits the Zika virus. The Brazilian dengue project is now being switched to focus on Zika. Kitron is particularly focused on mosquito control.

“Mosquito control is not considered ‘sexy’ science, like developing a new drug or a vaccine, but more attention and resources need to be devoted to it,” says Kitron.

Contact Carol Clark (media relations), 404-727-0501,

Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Emory University, is a disease ecologist focused on mosquito-borne diseases. Vazquez-Prokopec specializes in spatial analysis of the movement of people, mosquitos and pathogens, to zero in on transmission patterns of epidemics. He has major research projects ongoing in Latin America for dengue fever, which is spread by Aedes aegypti, the same mosquito species that transmits the Zika virus. Vazquez-Prokopec is also supporting efforts of Brazilian health officials to control the Zika outbreak in that country. Vaquez-Prokopec describes Aedes aegypti as “the roaches” of the mosquito world, perfectly adapted to living with humans, especially in urban environments.

 “Now we have three viruses – dengue, chikungunya and Zika – being spread by Aedes aegypti, so that greatly increases the cost-effectiveness of doing high-quality, thorough mosquito control,” says Vazquez-Prokopec.

Contact Carol Clark (media relations), 404-727-0501,

George Painter, PhD, is CEO of Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE) and Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD). Painter is highly experienced in leading the development of antiviral drugs. Painter and colleagues at DRIVE and EIDD have launched an effort, with early support from the Georgia Research Alliance, to identify and develop antivirals to treat Zika virus infection. The initiative is building on ongoing drug development against dengue and chikungunya viruses. As the former worldwide director of research process and international deputy therapeutic head for antiviral research at GlaxoWellcome, Painter has spent his life's work on the discovery and development of therapeutics. He also held the role of EVP and founder at Triangle Phamaceuticals, where he oversaw the development of the anti-HIV drug emtricitabine through NDA filing.

Contact Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990,

Carlos Del RioMD, Rollins Professor and chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health at Rollins School of Public Health, is focused on research and training that combats infectious disease globally. del Rio is an internationally renowned expert in disease transmission, prevention, and mitigation. At Emory he has developed and expanded research and training collaborations with Mexico, Georgia, Armenia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa, India, Vietnam, and Latin America.

Contact Melva Robertson (media relations), 404-727-5692, or Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990,

Phyllis Kozarsky, MD, is a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious at Emory University School of Medicine, and medical director of TravelWell, a clinic that serves individuals who are traveling internationally (both pre and post-travel), as well as immigrants and refugees. TravelWell is based at Emory University Hospital Midtown. Kozarsky’s expertise includes pre-travel health advice and education, including immunizations and/or medicines to prevent disease; post-travel illness; global health, migration and quarantine; tropical medicine; and the epidemiology of travel related infections and infectious diseases in general. She is a co-founder of the International Society of Travel Medicine and is a principal investigator of GeoSentinel, a network of 54 clinics internationally that track trends in travel-related occurrence of diseases as they move around the globe. Kozarsky is also an expert consultant to the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine in travelers’ health with the CDC. 

Contacts: Janet Christenbury (media relations), 404-727-8599; Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990; Melva Robertson (media relations), 404-727-5692

Mehul Suthar, MD, is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and a member of the Emory Vaccine Center. His research has focused on understanding the interplay between host immune responses and control of West Nile virus infection. The Emory Vaccine Center currently is initiating studies on immune responses to Zika virus. Dr. Suthar was trained as a virologist and can speak to most aspects of the biology, pathogenesis, and immune responses to Zika virus, although currently there is limited information available on these topics.

Contact: Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990,

Anne Winkler, MD, is an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, assistant director of the Emory Special Coagulation Laboratory, and Medical Director, Grady Health System Transfusion Services. She is board certified in pathology, blood banking, and transfusion medicine and she can discuss blood transfusions and risk of infectious diseases, and current recommendations and regulations regarding blood donation and transfusion, including Zika virus.

Contact: Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990,

Andi Shane, MD, MPH, is an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases in Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Shane is involved in inpatient and outpatient care of children with infectious diseases, education of students about the design and conduct of clinical research, and is a funded investigator with an interest in immunizations, neonatal infections, the applications of probiotics in infectious diseases, and pediatric hospital epidemiology and preparedness. She has an active interest in pediatric infectious diseases and global health and is actively involved with Emory’s collaborations in Ethiopia. She holds the Marcus Professor of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she serves as medical director of Hospital Epidemiology. 

Contact: Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990,

Steven Yeh, MD, is the Louise M. Simpson Professor of Ophthalmology in Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Eye Center, where he is Director of Uveitis and Vasculitis. He completed a fellowship at the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, conducting research in uveitis and the mechanisms of rare autoimmune eye diseases. At Emory, he was instrumental in diagnosing and treating a patient who developed severe eye disease months after recovering from Ebola virus disease at Emory University Hospital. He has since led an Emory medical team in the Quiet Eye West Africa Project in Liberia and Sierra Leone treating eye disease in recovered Ebola patients. He can discuss viral diseases related to eye complications.

Holly Korschun (media relations), 404-727-3990,

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