Zika’s potential threat to world blood supply deserves study — and action

Blood safety researchers say it is highly likely that the mosquito-borne Zika virus can be transmitted through blood transfusions and are calling for an evidence-based approach to protecting the blood supply from the threat of Zika virus according to a commentary in the journal Transfusion.

The researchers say among several possible steps that could be taken to mitigate safety concerns: deferring blood donors who have symptoms of the infection, developing better blood screening tests, and finding ways to reduce the pathogen.

Based on the growing concern over Zika and the blood supply, the National Institutes of Health in February announced interest in supporting research that examines the risk of Zika transmission through transfusion and the potential clinical impact of Zika that might be passed along through blood. In addition the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has made Zika research part of the existing Recipient Epidemiology and Donor Evaluation Study-III (REDS-III) blood safety research program.

Zika virus, once mainly seen in parts of Asia and Africa, has spread through the Americas and is now transmitted by mosquitoes in Puerto Rico. Mosquito-related transmission has not been reported yet in the continental United States, but people who have travelled to areas where active transmission by mosquitoes occurred have developed the infection upon their return to the U.S. The virus has been linked to birth defects and neurological disease, with thousands of cases being reported in Brazil.

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WHO: W. Keith Hoots, Director, Division of Blood Diseases and Resources, NHLBI, NIH, and Simone Glynn, Branch Chief, Blood Epidemiology and Clinical Therapeutics Branch, NHLBI, NIH, are co-authors of the commentary and are available to comment on Zika and the threat to blood transfusion.

CONTACT: For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the NHLBI Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education, and Communications at 301-496-5449 or [email protected] (link sends e-mail). Please direct specific blood supply safety questions to FDA Office of Media Affairs at (301) 796-4540 or [email protected]

About the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI): NHLBI, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

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