Virologists Shouldn’t Bring Their Work Home

In a brilliantly titled Science Now story, Martin Enserink reports on a strange cluster of patients infected with an extremely odd virus:

A U.S. vector biologist appears to have accidentally written virological history simply by having sex with his wife after returning from a field trip to Senegal. A study just released in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests that the researcher, Brian Foy of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, passed to his wife the Zika virus, an obscure pathogen that causes joint pains and extreme fatigue. If so, it would be the first documented case of sexual transmission of an insect-borne disease.

The paper coyly explains that “Patient 1″ and “Patient 2″ apparently acquired the virus from mosquito bites during their field studies in Africa. “Patient 3,” who didn’t go on the trip, and who lives in northern Colorado where Zika-carrying mosquitoes are nonexistent, seems to have gotten the pathogen by having sex with Patient 1.

Foy is the first author of the paper, which describes three anonymous patients. But in an interview with Science, he confirmed that he is the anonymous “patient 1″; his Ph.D. student Kevin Kobylinski, who accompanied him on the trip to Senegal and also got sick, is “patient 2.” Foy’s wife, Joy Chilson Foy, a nurse at the Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, is “patient 3″; she is also a co-author of the paper.

Well, at least she got authorship. Next time, Brian, just get her a t-shirt.