Report: Insect-borne virus spread by sexual contact

History is replete with scientific findings whose discoveries were, in some respects, quite accidental.

A U.S. biologist was recently caught up in just that – an accidental discovery.

Brian Foy – who works as a researcher with the Fort Collins’ based Colorado State University – unwittingly passed the Zika virus to his wife after sleeping with her upon returning from a Senegal field trip.

The Foy’s consequently made history by unwittingly participating in the first known incident of transmitting an insect-borne illness via sexual intercourse.

Symptoms of a Zika virus infection include extreme fatigue and joint pains.


Foy’s discovery became public when he published his research, although the paper did not initially disclose the names of the subjects involved in the study.

However, Foy eventually confirmed the names of the previously anonymous subjects in a subsequent interview as Kevin Kobylinski (his PhD student), his wife and himself.

Foy and Kobylinski were in Senegal to collect mosquitoes from Bnadafassi, a village in the south eastern part of the country and were bitten multiple times. 

After returning to the U.S. on 24th August 2008, the two fell ill 5 days later. They suffered from rashes on their torso, headaches and extreme fatigue.


The two also experienced pain and swelling around the ankles, knees and wrists. In addition, Foy exhibited signs of prostatitis, including blood in his semen and painful urination. Mrs. Foy fell ill on 3rd September. The symptoms all but disappeared after a week for the Foy’s as well as Kobylinski.


The two scientists suspected the mosquito bites may have had something to do with the infection. Initial tests turned out positive for dengue fever in Foy and Kobylinski. But strangely, the result was negative for Foy’s wife.


The mystery remained unsolved until Kobylinski met a medical entomologist, Andrew Haddow, who took a keen interest in the Zika virus.

Unsurprisingly, subsequent blood work confirmed the three had been infected with the Zika virus. 

Although there is obviously no clear cut proof sexual contact was the sole medium of transmission for Mrs. Foy, the circumstantial evidence certainly seems convincing enough.

[Via Science Mag]