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Mac Margolis

Zika’s Silver Lining: Fighting Cancer

The virus may yield a potent weapon against a deadlier disease.

Not all bad.

Not all bad.

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Of the afflictions routinely visiting the tropics, Zika virus is surely one of the most alarming. A contagion known mostly for fever and chills took on a deadly new face in Brazil in 2015, when it was linked to severe brain deformities in newborns, including a spike in infant microcephaly, or babies with undersized craniums. And all of this was unfolding amid Brazil’s gathering fiscal chaos, which undercut funding for science even as public health authorities were scrambling to contain other mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever, chikungunya and a resurgent centuries-old menace, yellow fever.

So who would have thought that such a scourge could be turned into a treatment? Yet Zika’s destructive powers were precisely what caught the attention of geneticists and biological researchers at the University of Sao Paulo, known as USP.