Science, Now + Beyond

A teenager may have discovered a cure for the Zika virus

What were you doing at 17? Probably not saving millions of people, like this kid.

What started as a small project for preventing the spread of Dengue fever may have just saved millions of people from future viruses borne through mosquitoes. Here is the amazing story of how a small town Phillipines teenager discovered a possible cure to some of the leading causes of death in the world.

On May 12th, a seventeen year old teenager from the Philippines discovered that a plant may be the cure to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus. Jerouen Paul Lumabao found that the extract of the garden croton, Codiaeum variegatum, kills larvae of mosquitoes that can carry dengue, Zika, and more.

Lumabao began his research with the Dengue virus in mind, hoping to slow down the continual spread of the virus and buy time for later research that would eventually stop the virus once and for all. Lumabao collected three different plants, the Tawa-Tawa (Euphorbia hirta), the San Francisco garden croton (Codiaeum variegatum) and lastly, an herb called Lemon grass (Cymbopogan citratus). Lumabao picked the plants’ leaves, dried them, and then soaked them in alcohol, a technique used to isolate the extracts and, hopefully, the insect killing components, too.

Afterwards, Lumabao allowed the alcohol to evaporate. The leftovers included a concentrated oily liquid full of plant-made chemicals and a cure. He tested these extracts by dripping small quantities of them into water that contained mosquito eggs and larvae.

Both tawa-tawa and lemon grass extracts caused the mosquito larvae to develop unusually, not maturing as they should. It seems like what had been happening to babies heads’ from the Zika virus was now happening to the carrier of the disease. The San Francisco garden croton extract proved even more toxic to the insects. In just 24 hours, it had killed all of the mosquito eggs and larvae in the water.

Gotta get ’em early!

Lumabao’s research to prevent the spread of Dengue fever may have just helped to stop the spread of all mosquito-based viruses, including the Zika virus! Of course, more research is necessary before such a discovery can be used – but hopefully, that will be soon.

At just 17, Lumabao could be responsible for saving millions of lives across the globe. What an inspiration.