Trump administration considers legal fight to block release of Zika virus

Diplomats confirmed that the US worked with South African government to develop the bacteria

US officials are consulting with South African scientists on the variant.

Three US government officials and six South African scientists have met in Washington on Wednesday as the White House considers a legal team to block release of the Aedes aegypti mosquito-borne Zika virus, known as a variant of the Zika virus.

Trump administration to ask Congress for funding to fight Zika virus variant that risks birth defects Read more

The funding request to Congress is part of a potential strategy to slow the spread of the reemerging epidemic. There are fears that the same virus will be transmitted via blood transfusions, and it could also be spread sexually.

For the first time, scientists had isolated a genome from the Zika virus, leading to concerns over a potential new version being born and making its way to the human population.

Health officials have called the virus a public health threat. Of the thousands of babies born around the world with microcephaly, the condition that causes abnormal brain development, 90% were born to women in areas that had been exposed to Zika.

The US is seeking funding to fight the virus. In February the White House submitted a request for $6.1bn to battle the Zika virus and protect pregnant women.

To date the White House has only requested $805m in funding but the funding request is subject to a change in administration in May.

Officials confirmed that the US government is consulting with South African scientists on developing a medical treatment and vaccine to stop the spread of the virus.

According to the White House, South Africa is one of only two countries in the world where the Zika virus can be considered endemic.

A high-level delegation of US health and science representatives have met with their South African counterparts on Wednesday. The South African Department of Health confirmed a gathering of US officials and South African scientists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Washington DC.

The South African public health official for the meeting was Dr Bart de Hiltrop, while the CDC met with Dr Patrick Abrahams, Dr Thongchai Thein and Dr Ferdinand Watson of the South African institute of tropical medicine.

A White House source confirmed to the Guardian that the US was in consultation with South African scientists.

“There have been two briefings by the CDC with the South African CDC on the Zika epidemic,” the source said. “The scientific team from CDC has been consulting with the South African public health team to work together to develop a medical treatment and vaccine to stop the spread of the Zika virus.

“The CDC has also consulted with two South African researchers to see how the global team of scientists and researchers can work with a team of South African researchers to ensure we prevent the spread of the virus internationally.”

A group of scientists from Africa, Asia and Latin America were expected to meet in Washington, DC on Wednesday to discuss the science behind Zika.

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