The common Culex mosquito is able to transmit the harmful Zika virus, Brazilian scientists have discovered. Scientists at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in the Pernambuco state revealed that the virus can reach the insect’s salivary gland, “which is believed to indicate that Culex mosquitoes may be one of the vectors of the Zika virus”, reports Xinhua news agency. Until now it was believed that the virus was spread by the Aedes Aegypti, a less common variety of mosquito that also carries the diseases dengue and chikungunya. The team’s findings were published on Wednesday by the Nature group.
Fiocruz said it will now analyze the physiological and behavioural characteristics of the Culex in its natural environment “to understand the role and the importance of this species in the transmission of the Zika virus”. While the virus is not fatal to humans, it has been linked to serious birth defects in infants born to women who were exposed to the mosquito-borne disease, mainly through bites. Zika can lead to infants with macrocephaly, or abnormally small heads, and to a sometimes debilitating condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults who have been bitten.