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5 Feb, 2016 17:37

Zika virus found in saliva, urine samples of patients in Brazil

Zika virus found in saliva, urine samples of patients in Brazil

Brazil's health institute has discovered active Zika virus in the saliva and urine samples of two patients. The finding adds to concerns that the infection can be spread through bodily fluids.

Scientists at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a public health institute, said they analyzed the samples and used partial genome sequencing to identify the virus. Both samples were from people who were known to have Zika and were experiencing symptoms, Reuters reported.

The virus was deemed active, meaning it was able to cause infection, although the scientists said it was too early to determine whether Zika could be transmitted by saliva or urine.

"That fact that the virus was found with the capacity to cause infection is not proof that it can contaminate other people through those fluids," said Myrna Bonaldo, one of the scientists who made the discovery.

The finding adds to concerns that Zika, which is predominately spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, could also be transmitted by other means – particularly sex.

It comes just three days after health officials in Texas confirmed a case of the virus being transmitted sexually. On Thursday, Brazilian health officials said they had confirmed two cases of transmission through blood transfusions.

Declared a “global health emergency” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, the Zika virus has been linked to thousands of cases of the birth defect microcephaly, which results in babies being born with underdeveloped heads and brains.

The virus has spread to more than 30 countries since the outbreak began in northeastern Brazil last year, according to the WHO.