The Zika virus has been officially detected in saliva and urine by a Brazilian lab. This comes on the heels of news that broke the other day about the possibility of the Zika virus being transmitted sexually, further progressing our understanding of the dangerous disease.
CNN explains that previous reports suggested the Zika virus could be transmitted through blood transfusions.
“It was known that the virus could be present in both urine and saliva. This is the first time we’ve demonstrated that the virus is active [in those fluids], with the potential to cause infection,” researcher Myrna Bonaldo said.
The news definitely opens up all sorts of questions about the disease.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said that this doesn’t necessarily mean humans can contract the Zika virus through contact with saliva and urine, however.
“People have already shown that it can spread to bodily fluids other than blood, so this isn’t entirely surprising,” he said. “Presence of virus in saliva doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily transmissible that way.”
The Zika virus outbreak started in May of 2015 and has since spread to 20 countries, mostly focused in the South American part of the world. It’s estimated that three to four million people will have contracted the virus by next year.
Most have mild symptoms, but Alessandra Castelli writes that “health officials say the virus is suspected of having a link to an alarming spike in babies born with abnormally small heads — a condition called microcephaly — in Brazil and French Polynesia.”
BBC News reports that the U.S. has advised men to abstain from sex after visiting countries because of the Zika virus.
The most recent advice simply states that avoiding mosquitos is the best way to prevent transmission, but many scientists have yet to clarify what this news about urine and saliva has to do with how humans need to adapt.
Professor Jonathan Ball told BBC News, “Because we can detect a virus in a particular body fluid it does not mean that it will become an important source of virus for transmission to humans.”
“At the peak of virus replication in the blood, virus can often be detected in other body fluids, but the levels of virus are often much lower and there is no obvious or efficient means for the virus to get from that bodily fluid into another person’s bloodstream.”
“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 news about the Zika virus being in urine and saliva was found by Fiocruz, a foundation that made the discovery after analyzing samples from two patients and carrying out a partial genome sequencing of the virus.
The Zika virus outbreak has been linked to more than 4,000 suspected cases of birth defects in Brazil. The virus has also been identified in 17 cases of microcephaly in babies, but there’s still no concrete proof that the virus causes it. Babies with microcephaly display abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.
This news about the Zika virus being found in urine and saliva is striking, but as officials said, there’s still no news on whether the virus can be transmitted through exposure to them.
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