FDA approves new test to screen for Zika in blood donations

On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced approval for the use of an investigational test to screen blood donations for the Zika virus.

On Feb. 16, the FDA issued guidelines to reduce the risk of transmitting Zika through blood transfusions. The recommendations halted Puerto Rico's local blood collection. Earlier this month, the federal government shipped blood and blood products to the island territory in a preventative effort to halt Zika's possible contamination of the blood supply.

The clearance for the new test will allow Puerto Rico to soon resume collecting blood donations.

"The availability of an investigational test to screen donated blood for Zika virus is an important step forward in maintaining the safety of the nation's blood supply, especially for those U.S. territories already experiencing active transmission," said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

According to the New York Times, Dr. Marks believes the test will be made available within a week. The test was manufactured by Roche Molecular Systems, based in Branchburg, N.J.

It took about a year to develop a similar test for West Nile. The swiftness of response and the close collaboration between the FDA and Roche has been praised by experts.

"It is amazingly fast," Darrell J. Triulzi, MD, the director of the division of transfusion medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Times. "This is a testament to the speed at which industry was able to respond to a need."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
5 things to know about Zika misperceptions in US 
California's first sexually transmitted Zika case confirmed 
CDC updates guidance on Zika transmission prevention & pregnancy: 7 things to know

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