Three teams from Oxford University are launching projects to tackle the Zika virus after an outbreak in Brazil last year.

The virus, which is mainly symptomless but has been linked to brain damage in babies, spread across the Americas and was confirmed in one case as far away as North Korea this month.

With UK government funding a team from the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology will create an online data-sharing platform for medics to share images of fetal and newborn heads, critical in improving understanding of the extent of newborn microcephaly - abnormal smallness of the head - seemingly caused by Zika.

Elsewhere Professor Zoltán Molnár, from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, will carry out research in mice to understand at the cellular level how Zika causes microcephaly.

And Dr George Warimwe, from the Jenner Institute in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, will study the transmission of Zika in an area of East Africa, providing vital information on how the disease spreads.

The research has been funded by the UK Government through the Global Challenges Research Fund and Newton Fund and by the Wellcome Trust.

Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said: "Our Rapid Response initiative allowed us to allocate funding to this global research challenge within a very short time frame, and valuable contributions from the Wellcome Trust and the Newton Fund created the capacity to match the remarkably strong response we received from the research community. Working in partnership is vital if we are to successfully tackle the health risks posed by emerging infections such as the Zika virus."