04/07/2011 03:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

Zika Virus: First Insect-Borne STD?

An American biologist took a trip to Senegal to study malaria, and accidentally made "virological history," reports Science magazine, by transmitting an insect-borne virus after having sex with his wife upon return.

The biologist, Brian Foy, was collecting mosquitoes as part of the research -- and frequently getting bitten as a result. Foy became sick shortly after returning home to Colorado with the Zika virus -- a virus that causes joint pain, fatigue, and other recognizable symptoms. Days later his wife appeared to have developed the same illness. (His children, Science rightly points out, were fine.)

Foy wrote the whole thing up here, referring to himself as "patient 1" and his wife as "patient 3." (He later revealed the true identities to Science. Patient 2 was a fellow researcher on the trip.)

This discovery marks what's most likely the first known case of sexually transmitted insect-borne disease. Science reports:

There is no direct evidence that Foy's wife was infected through sexual contact, but the circumstantial evidence is strong ... As the paper puts it, "patients 1 and 3 reported having vaginal sexual intercourse in the days after patient 1 returned home but before the onset of his clinical illness." ("My wife wasn't happy with what happened afterwards," Foy adds.)

"If sexual transmission could be verified in subsequent studies," Foy wrote, "this would have major implications toward the epidemiology of ZIKV and possibly other arthropodborne flaviviruses."