Part 1: What disease should I research @home? Zika-Virus as example

To dabble with basic Science@home is fun – though probably only up until the question arises “what to actually research about”?

This leads to the question on how to find or decide on any disease to start with. Since this is a rather entangled question (or rather, the answers can be), I will offer three of the simplest answers:

  • Choose whichever disease you are curious about (or have a relation to)
  • Pick a particular target that you heard (know) of and are interested in
  • Take from current news a “hot-topic” disease/target

This might sound somewhat naïve, but can be rather relevant and is used by many researchers within pharmaceutical development at least as part of the starting point. As example, my friend Fernando from InOutScience and I have been considering the Zika-Virus ourselves (hence, I will use “us/we” for the remainder of this blog series). Myself, I stumbled upon this due to the news last year (and a family interest, if you will).

What is Zika?

Zika hit the world news last year after an outbreak of epidemic proportions in South America. That the world took notice at all was (as usual?) down to economics. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil and the spread to southern parts of USA.  It then though nearly equally declined by the end of the year as fast as it appeared earlier. The reasons for this still seems to be unclear for epidemiologists.


The virus itself is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. It leads to harmless symptoms, the most common ones’ headache, muscle and joint pain, mild fever, rash, and inflammation of the underside of the eyelid.
But: What brought this virus into the limelight is the fact that when transferred to pregnant women the fetus is at risk for birth defects!

The latter is the reason for efforts on trying to find treatments (otherwise, basic flue treatment seems to do the trick).

You can find nicely summarized facts at the World Health Organziation (WHO) webpage on Zika.

Unfortunately, as with any neglected disease (tropical ones fall most often into this category), there is no money to make in finding new medications (research & development costs versus what you can make from it….). Therefore it falls on some smaller companies as well as academic groups as major player researching these, as is the case with Zika.
You yourself can participate indirectly if you like via the WorldCommnunityGrid distributed computation project – see my blog entry here to see how. 

If you want to know more about Zika, please check out these links:

Now that we have a disease to research on – how to continue? Part 2 now available, please click here.

PS: Part of this blog series will be presented at the “ICIC 2017“, the International Conference on Trends for Scientific Information Professionals, Heidelberg, October 23-24. The presentation will be made by Fernando Huerta from InOutScience .