A GLASGOW-based research team has taken a first step in preventing the transmission of a mosquito-borne virus which is in danger of invading parts of Central and South America and the USA.
Researchers at the Medical Research Council - University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research worked with colleagues at the Institut Pasteur in France to find a pathway in the mosquito that carries the chikungunya virus.
They said the discovery of the RNA interference pathway would allow them to look for ways of breaking the transmission chain by tackling the immunity of the mosquito, possibly through genetic modification procedures.
Dr Alain Kohl said: "It's a first step but an important step because now we have clearly identified an antiviral pathway in the mosquito. First of all you have to know what you to have to target.
"Once you develop this knowledge, you can either try to make the mosquitoes immune-deficient or strengthen their immunity, so that when such a virus comes along, they would become less or extremely resistant.
"We have to test both to see if we can break the transmission chain one way or another."
The chikungunya virus can be debilitating and survivors can be affected by a number of long-term problems, including arthritis.
Health authorities in the US are said to be becoming increasingly concerned following reports of people being infected in Florida.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported almost 600,000 suspected cases and 6,455 confirmed cases in the Americas earlier this year.