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29 March 2017


A new approach to testing donated blood for the Zika virus has been found effective.

The Zika virus has spread rapidly in the Pacific and throughout the Americas. It is genetically similar to the yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, and dengue viruses, and can cause severe congenital and adult neurologic conditions. There is the risk that it could be transmitted between humans via blood transfusion.

So-called 'nucleic acid amplification technology' tests have been developed to screen donated blood. A team based at the University of California-San Francisco, USA, compared the analytical performance of such tests against assays currently used for screening blood for other viruses.

They found that these new tests 'are substantially more sensitive than most other laboratory-developed and diagnostic Zika virus reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays'.

Writing in Transfusion recently, they state: 'Enhancing sensitivities of laboratory-developed and diagnostic assays may be achievable by increasing sample input.'

Senior author, Dr Michael Busch, says: 'The results of this study, that evaluated 17 Zika virus assays in 11 laboratories and documented excellent sensitivity of the two donor screening assays manufactured by Roche and Grifols, were critical to support the decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and blood industry to implement investigational screening of donors in Puerto Rico in April 2016 and the entire US by the end of 2016.'

He adds: 'Given the sensitivity of these assays, the FDA rescinded earlier policies precluding transfusion of blood collected in Puerto Rico. This screening has detected over 350 infected blood donations in Puerto Rico and dozens of infected donations in the continental US.'

Source: Stone, M. et al. Relative analytical sensitivity of donor nucleic acid amplification technology screening and diagnostic real-time polymerase chain reaction assays for detection of Zika virus RNA. Transfusion 14 February 2017; doi: 10.1111/trf.14031


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