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Diving into Zika Genetics

Researchers in Brazil have collected some 2,000 samples from people in northeastern Brazil to study the Zika virus and examine viral genomes to gauge whether the virus is evolving to become more dangerous, the Wall Street Journal reports.

While some research has indicated that the Zika virus genome is largely stable, other studies have hinted that it could be undergoing changes that might be making it more efficient at reproducing within human cells, it adds. Because of this, researchers from the Evandro Chagas Institute in Brazil and elsewhere are sequencing viral samples to see if such alterations are going on. "What we know about Zika virus evolution is almost nothing," Marcio Nunes from Evandro Chagas who's one of the leaders of the virus collection effort tells the Journal.

So far, the Journal notes that the changes researchers have picked up in the Zika virus genome are random and not near any one gene.

At the same time, researchers are also examining the genes of people who became infected with the virus to see if there are any genetic factors that makes them more susceptible to infection as well as studying the virulence of different strains of the disease in cell and animal models. Investigators are collecting Zika samples from other parts of the world to traces its spread around the globe, it adds.