FDA Grants Use of Experimental Blood Test for Zika Screening

Mosquitoes carrying Zika may spread to U.S. states this summer, and blood screening could follow

Federal health officials are granting use of an experimental blood test to screen blood for Zika virus, an emergency step designed to protect local blood supplies from the mosquito-borne illness.

The action means U.S. territories with active Zika infections, primarily Puerto Rico, will be able to resume collecting and screening their own blood. Earlier this month, the island of 3.5 million barred local donations and began importing blood from the U.S., following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Currently no states have reported local, mosquito-transmitted Zika cases.

However, some experts say some of the problems facing Puerto Rico now may be repeated later this year in Florida, Texas and other Southern states where officials think mosquito-borne outbreaks of Zika may occur.

The FDA said Wednesday that use of the test could be expanded if the virus spreads to other areas of the U.S. 

"In the future, should Zika virus transmission occur in other areas, blood collection establishments will be able to continue to collect blood and use the investigational screening test, minimizing disruption to the blood supply," said Dr. Peter Marks, director of FDA's center for biologics.

The test authorized by the FDA is made by Roche Molecular Systems, a division of the Swiss health care conglomerate.

Earlier this month, the CDC and the FDA authorized emergency use of a separate laboratory test to diagnose Zika infection in patients. The test was distributed to a limited number of U.S. and international laboratories.

On Friday, San Diego County health officials announced California’s first case of the virus spread through sexual transmission. It comes a month after Dallas County, Texas, health officials said a patient there had contracted Zika through sexual contact, a case the CDC said was the first to be transmitted in the U.S.

The Zika virus is transmitted mostly through mosquito bites, but a man who has Zika can transmit the virus to his sex partners, according to the CDC.

The unidentified California woman was infected with Zika in February after having sex with a man who had just returned from Colombia, according to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.

Symptoms may not be apparent in someone who is carrying the Zika virus. If symptoms do develop, they may include fever, rash, joint pain and eye redness.

California has reported 22 travel-associated cases of Zika virus within the last year.

Mosquitoes can carry the Zika virus, which is similar to dengue and chikungunya. The insects can carry the virus when they feed on a person who already has it. Then, those mosquitoes can spread the virus to other people through bites.

This story has been corrected to show that Roche is based in Switzerland, not Germany.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us