Zika virus
The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters

The Zika virus has been found in saliva and urine samples in Brazil, the country's health institute has announced. This is the first time active Zika virus has been found in these bodily fluids, raising fears of human transmission.

Scientists at Fiocruz analysed samples from two patients and carried out a partial genome sequence of the virus, Reuters reports. Paulo Gadelha, president of health institute Fiocruz, announced the finding at a press conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Researchers are now investigating the possibility the virus could be transmitted through bodily fluids and said the discovery means extra precautions should be taken with pregnant women.

The virus was found to be active in the two samples, meaning it had the potential to cause infection. "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.

Earlier in February, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the Zika virus had been transmitted through sexual content. They found a patient had become infected in the US after his partner returned from Venezuela – where the virus is present.

The Zika outbreak began in Brazil in October 2015 and since then it has spread across more than 25 countries and territories. The virus has been linked with microcephaly, with thousands of cases found in Brazil since the outbreak began. The condition causes infants to have abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.