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Zika testing kit proof of need for federal funding   arrow

Researchers are making strides in the battle against the zika virus. The Zika virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae. It is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus. Its name comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947.

A testing kit was created that is cheaper, faster, and easier to use. This was only possible through the aid of two federal grants, and with research funding going the way of the dinosaur under the new administration it reinforces the importance of financing projects involving public health and safety.

Florida was number on in the nation in Zika infections last year, with more than a thousand total cases and so far this year we’ve already had more than seventy infections. The new kit only costs around five dollars, and gives a result in about thirty minutes instead of days, which helps reaction time when it comes to fighting the virus. Federal dollars from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense helped create the test.

But President Trump’s proposed budget would cut billions from vital health agencies, including the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is studying birth defects caused by the Zika virus even as it faces tens of millions in proposed budget cuts. The twenty five million in state grants for Zika research should only exist to supplement, not replace, the federal funding for this research.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., protested the federal cuts in a letter last month to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. And while securing funding to combat Zika remains urgent, it goes hand-in-hand with the less publicized issue in the science community of basic research funding. Steven Benner, one of the Zika researchers, told the Tampa Bay Times the focus should look beyond Zika to the more important need for a general long-term commitment from Washington to develop more research tools. Benner said NIH peer review panels, when facing hundreds of funding applications, tend to throw out ones that don’t use buzzwords like crisis. hen another virus leaps from obscurity to infamy the way Zika did, an investment in basic research pays off. And that’s a matter of when, not if, Benner says, listing the viruses Mayaro or Oropouche or O’nyong’nyong as possibilities for a future infection reaching the United States from foreign travelers. To invest in basic research beforehand lowers the cost when a crisis does happen and mitigates its damage.