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The Source: Preventing Zika From Contaminating The Blood Supply

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The medical community is taking steps to protect the National blood supply from spreading Zika virus. As A new experimental test to screen Zika contaminated blood will be used in South Texas.
The experimental test produced by Roche Molecular Systems can detect Zika in a blood sample and is being used in Puerto Rico after the U.S. Territory had to shut down its local blood donations a month ago. There were concerns that tainted transfusions could spread the infection as it did in Brazil.
DR. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research told TPR’s The Source this test is coming online just in time.
“Detecting diseases that are transmittable through blood does bring unique challenges in the case of Zika Virus an individual may not have symptoms and still be infected and that’s why any test being used to screen blood donations for Zika be very very sensitive.”
Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer of the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center said they are gearing up for blood Zika testing. Right now it' s a race to have the equipment in place against local Zika transmission which hasn’t happened yet.
“If we have enough technology in place where we can test 100 percent of the blood supply when that first active transmission occurs – then we’ll test 100 percent. If we don’t have enough of the technology on the ground to test 100 percent of the blood supply then what we’ll do is test the blood supply that’s associated with where that transmission occurred."
The biggest concern is Zika infection with pregnant women where the infant can be born with brain damage. The virus can also be sexually transmitted.

  • Dr. Anil Mangla, assistant director of the Metropolitan Health District
  • Elizabeth Waltman, CEO of South Texas Blood & Tissue
  • Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive