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Jan. 25, 2017

You never know

Jan. 25, 2017

We have millions of conversations throughout our life. We do millions of things. But we never really know when we’re in the middle of them what reactions or implications could come of them down the road. For instance, I had no idea that a conversation four years ago over margaritas could play a role in fighting the Zika virus. But yet, in a roundabout way, I like to think it actually did.

Let me back up to that day almost exactly four years ago. A small group of us were in Merida, Mexico covering a story about an MSU health project run by Jake Rowan, one of MSU’s talented doctors. Jake was incredibly hospitable and insisted we join him for a lovely relaxing dinner after a grueling day of work at the hospital. And what’s a dinner in Mexico without a margarita?

My colleagues and I had just come from covering some stories in China, including one about MSU researcher Zhiyong Xi, who was working on combatting dengue fever using a natural bacteria in mosquitoes that renders them sterile.

As we talked that evening, it was like being with lifelong friends, though we had just met the day before. Being a Spartan really is like having an extended family all over the world. Jake was fascinated with our travels and interested in the other projects we were covering. When we told him about Zhiyong’s work, he became very interested and wondered if the same concept would work for malaria since mosquitoes also transmit it. He asked if we could connect him up with Zhiyong to see if there was a possible collaboration they could form. We provided the information, thought little more of it and hopped a plane the next day for our next destination.

Fast forward to current time. The Zika virus has emerged as a serious threat in many parts of the world, including Mexico. Zhiyong expanded his work to see if it could combat Zika as well as dengue and found that he was very successful in his trials. He told my colleague that his connection with Jake, who had partnered with the Mexican government on his project, helped Zhiyong make connections that formed a partnership to fight Zika in Mexico using his method. Whoa. Spartan connections are pretty powerful things.

So now Zhiyong is building “mosquito factories” and partnering with Mexico in an effort to stop the spread of this dangerous disease. Check out the MSUToday FEATURE: Fighting Zika with ‘Mosquito Factories,’ to watch a great video that explains the science behind the project — pretty amazing stuff. It’s really cool for me and my colleagues to think we had a tiny role in the twists and turns it took to get to this result.

Another co-worker of mine, Layne Cameron, got to travel to China a few months ago to cover this story. He was pretty nervous before he left, but came back inspired and excited, as I knew he would be. Watching Spartans work to change lives around the world has a way of doing that. Layne wanted to share his thoughts on the trip so this week, I’m doing something a little different. Instead of a Faculty Voice, I invite you to check out Layne’s STAFF VOICE: The reluctant traveler, to learn more about his experience.

Melissa Gutwein, an Honor College senior majoring in special education, doesn’t know what path her actions will take her, but she knows she wants to leave less of a footprint on the earth. During her class designed to prepare students to be excellent science teachers, she explored water usage and how to make sure our world’s water supply remains viable. Check out her STUDENT VIEW: Decreasing our water footprint, to learn more about this motivated young Spartan.

Life sure is funny. You honestly never know how your actions today will impact the future. We can all guess to some extent, but there are always surprises along the way. As Spartans, it’s in our DNA to make connections, form partnerships, ask the hard questions and ultimately find solutions. With 500,000 Spartan minds across the globe, there's nothing stopping us. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Derrick L. Turner


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