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IBM to Provide Technology Assistance in Fight Against Zika

  • Reuters

FILE - The logo of IBM is seen on a computer screen in Los Angeles, April 22, 2016.

FILE - The logo of IBM is seen on a computer screen in Los Angeles, April 22, 2016.

International Business Machines Corp. said Wednesday that it would provide its technology and resources to help track the spread of the Zika virus.

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, or Fiocruz, a leading research institution affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Health, plans to use IBM's technology to analyze such information as official data about human travel patterns and anecdotal observations recorded on social media.

Global health officials are racing to better understand the Zika virus, which has caused a major outbreak that began in Brazil last year and has spread to many other countries in the Americas.

IBM also said it planned to donate a one-year subscription feed of local data on rainfall, average temperature and relative humidity to the U.S. Fund for United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Rainfall, temperature and humidity play key roles in the development of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Zika as well as dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

IBM is also collaborating with the New York-based Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies to collect and mine biological and ecological data to help devise algorithms that can determine which primates are carriers for the virus.

IBM also runs the "OpenZika" project on the company's World Community Grid, a crowd-sourced supercomputer. The initiative allows scientists in the United States and Brazil to screen millions of chemical compounds to identify candidates to combat the virus.

More than a dozen small biotech firms and other organizations are developing vaccines against Zika, which is linked to birth defects and neurological disorders, although most work is at a nascent stage.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said in March that it was working with UNICEF to analyze data in an effort to map and anticipate the spread of the virus.

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