(ENGLAND/BRAZIL)

A team of international scientists has made a genetic breakthrough that will help in tackling the deadly Zika virus.

By sequencing the genetic makeup of Zika, researchers have been able to track its spread, which will assist in better understanding its common links to child birth defects and other diseases.

“Despite there being probably millions of cases of the Zika virus in Brazil, there was only a handful of known virus genomes prior to our work. A better understanding of Zika virus’ genetic diversity is critical to vaccine design, and also to identify areas where surveillance is most needed,” said Dr Nuno Faria, of the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, who was part of the global research team.

In charting the behaviour of the virus, the research – published today in in Naturewill aid in the detection and control of the disease.

The research team was made of experts from the Universities of  Oxford and Birmingham – in partnership with FioCruz Bahia, the University of São Paulo, and supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.