Brazil budget crisis slows supercomputer from studying Zika

miércoles 22 de junio de 2016 20:07 GYT

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 22 (Reuters) - Scientists will have to do without an ally in the race to combat the Zika virus.

A supercomputer named Santos Dumont has been partially switched off in Rio de Janeiro due to government spending cuts. It was meant to be genetically mapping the Zika virus.

"It seems nonsensical, at a moment like this when everyone is talking about the Zika virus," Antonio Tadeu, head of a government group responsible for high performance processing, told Reuters.

"The financial problems have meant Santos Dumont is running below capacity since last month," he added.

In the midst of Brazil's worst recession since the 1930s, funds to Santos Dumont's home at the National Laboratory of Computer Science have been cut by 20 percent, according to the Ministry for Science and Technology.

This has meant the supercomputer is working at 30 percent capacity to save energy costs and 75 projects it was meant to be processing are on hold, including the Zika mapping.

The supercomputer, which was bought from France's Atos/Bull , is 1 million times faster than an average laptop and costs about 500,000 reais ($148,104) to run per month.

The Ministry for Science and Technology said it is negotiating extra funds to restore Santos Dumont to full power.

($1 = 3.376 reais) (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Sandra Maler)