A Utah man who mysteriously contracted Zika from his infected father may have gotten it by touching his dad’s tears or sweat with his bare hands, according to new research unveiled Wednesday that found the unusual transmission method was likely caused by his dying father having 100,000 times the normal level of the virus.
The research done by University of Utah doctors and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine doesn’t give definite answers to why the father’s levels were so high or why the son contracted the virus in a way not documented anywhere else. But it does offer new details about the events the led to a case that has puzzled researchers.
The father, 73, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer eight months before his June death, the report says. He was receiving radiation therapy and anti-androgen therapy, which may have made it easier for the virus to replicate, said Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, chief of the infectious diseases division at University of Utah Health Care. But Swaminathan said the cancer and treatment doesn’t totally explain why the man had such extremely high levels.