Zika has been identified in the saliva and urine of two patients infected by the virus, a leading Brazilian health institute said on Friday, adding that further studies are needed to determine if those fluids could transmit the infection.
Scientists at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a public health institute, said they used genetic testing to identify the virus in samples from two patients while they had symptoms and were known to have Zika, the mosquito-borne viral infection that has sparked a global health scare.
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It is the first time the virus has been detected in saliva and urine, scientists told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. The virus was deemed active, meaning that it was able to cause infection, but the scientists stressed that it was too early to say whether Zika could be transmitted by either fluid.
"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.
Fiocruz, as the foundation is informally known, made the discovery after analyzing samples from two patients and carrying out a partial genome sequencing of the virus, said Paulo Gadelha, president of the foundation.
The discovery adds to concern that Zika, which is predominantly spread by the Aedis aegypti mosquito, could also be transmitted by other means, particularly sex. Scientists are researching reports earlier this week that an American had transmitted the virus to a sexual partner in Dallas County, Texas.
Also, Brazilian health officials said on Thursday they had confirmed two cases of transmission through blood transfusions.
The ongoing outbreak of Zika infections, which has been linked to more than 4,000 suspected cases of a birth defect in Brazil, started in Brazil's Northeast and has since spread and been locally transmitted in more than 30 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Though presence of the Zika virus has been identified in 17 cases of babies with microcephaly, as the condition is known, there is no solid proof that the virus causes it. Babies with microcephaly have abnormally small heads and often have underdeveloped brains.