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Zika virus - sharing data in public health emergencies

Zika sharing data - HOMEPAGE


Zika fever is a mosquito-borne infection caused by Zika virus (ZIKV) (genus Flavivirus, family Flaviviridae). The virus was first isolated from a monkey in 1947 originating from the Zika forest in Uganda. In 2015, an outbreak of ZIKV infection began in the Caribbean and Central and South America; travellers returning from these endemic areas contributing to the spread of the infection outside of the Americas. Consequently surveillance for ZIKV infection has improved greatly, and increased numbers of cases have been reported both within the affected regions and in new epidemiological areas.


Zika Open

The WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has met three times to discuss ZIKV; most recently on the 14 June 2016. Zika virus infection (and associated disorders) was initially declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in February 2016. Despite the world-wide public health response, it remains a PHEIC. In the context of the PHEIC, WHO has created ‘Zika Open’ an access area for researchers and scientists to share data. Data forms the basis for action in public health emergencies, and the ability to rapidly share information is crucial to ensure a timely, informed response. The data shared in zika open is freely available, can be used without restriction, and can be distributed and reproduced as long as the originating paper is cited correctly.

Zika infection is complex, and research into the virus covers a diverse range of areas of focus from disease pathogenesis to treatment and prevention. Zika open aims to encourage researchers from all disciplines to share their data quickly and widely, and highlights the advantages of sharing data generated globally from different geographical locations and various sources, to fight an infectious disease of global concern.


Strain variations

Genetic studies have shown that there are three distinct genotypes of ZIKV known as East African, West African and Asian. Research using these three genotypes can help to achieve a better understanding of the disease. There are currently three strains of ZIKV within the National Collection of Pathogenic Viruses (NCPV) collection:

  • MP1751 (cat no. 1308258v) - the first strain to the collection is a historical strain. From the depositor records it is thought that this strain is most likely to have been isolated from Aedes africanus mosquitoes captured in Zika Forest, Uganda, in 1962
  • PRVABC59 (cat no. 1604131v) - the second strain is a recent strain and was isolated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from serum of a patient who had travelled to Puerto Rico in South America in 2015, at the start of the outbreak
  • PHE_semen_Guadeloupe (cat no. 1609021v) -  the most recently acquired strain in the collection was isolated by the Public Health England Virology and Pathogenesis group in 2016. This strain was isolated from the semen of patient from Guadeloupe.

It is hoped that by sharing data from research using historical and emerging strains, as well as strains isolated from various clinical sample types, a better understanding can be gained about ZIKV, its modes of transmission (including sexual transmission), treatment and prevention.


Related Links

PHE ZIKV: country specific risk

WHO Zika Open

NCPV ZIKV strains



Dye, C., Bartolomeos, K., Moorthy, V., & Kieny, M. (2016). Data sharing in public health emergencies: A call to researchers. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 94(3), 158

Lanciotti, R., Lambert, A., Holodniy, M., Saavedra, S., & Signor, L. (2016). Phylogeny of Zika Virus in Western Hemisphere, 2015. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 22(5), 933-5.

Atkinson B, Graham V, Miles RW, Lewandowski K, Dowall SD, Pullan ST, Hewson R. 2016. Complete genome sequence of Zika virus isolated from semen. Genome Announc 4(5):e01116-16


October 2016

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