Singapore can be at forefront of search for Zika cure

The fact that the Zika virus can stay in the seminal fluid of males for months after an infection adds a whole new set of problems in tackling the virus ("Zika thrives in 'organs shielded from body defences'"; Feb 14).

It would appear that men who have symptoms resembling a Zika infection may need to be tested for the virus too. Failure to do so can lead to severe ramifications for potential fathers.

Currently, the detection of the Zika virus lies mainly in testing urine and blood specimens. But the virus disappears from both blood and urine in two weeks.

Do we have methods to detect the Zika virus in seminal fluid with similar reliability and sensitivity?

How long do we continue with virology testing? Does the infectiousness taper off, or do couples need to practise safe sex even if minor traces of the virus remain? How will this affect our birth rates?

A new front in our efforts against Zika looks imminent.

There is little literature to rely on, but if sexual transmission is as effective as vector-based transmission, then a whole new approach to the problem will need to be adopted.

Cure will be better than prevention.

We have a very potent research machinery here, together with a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry and a high concentration of Zika cases.

This puts us at the forefront of the search for a Zika cure. Can we respond?

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore can be at forefront of search for Zika cure'. Print Edition | Subscribe