The common Culex mosquito is able to transmit the harmful Zika virus, Brazilian scientists have discovered, according to a study published on Wednesday.
Scientists at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in the northeast state of Pernambuco (noreste) have shown 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," Agencia Brasil said.
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 by the Nature group in its specialized magazine "Emerging microbes and infections."
Fiocruz said it will now analyze the physiological and behavioral 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 microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, and to a sometimes debilitating condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults who have been bitten.