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Zika Screen Use Allowed

The US Food and Drug Administration has paved the way for Roche's Cobas Zika assay to be used to screen blood donations in Puerto Rico for the virus, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Due to concerns about the virus, blood donations in Puerto Rico had been stopped, meaning that the US territory has had to import some 6,000 units of red blood from the continental US, the New York Times adds. The virus is also expected to make its way to the US Gulf Coast this summer, it notes.

"The bottom line is we are going to work with blood centers in Puerto Rico to try to help as many as possible make use of the investigational test," Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at FDA, tells the Times. The agency approved the use of the test under its under an Investigational New Drug application protocol, according to GenomeWeb.

The Zika virus is a concern for blood banks as about 80 percent of infected people aren't aware that they've caught the virus. The Times notes that it's unclear how people who receive infect blood fare, as the infection is usually mild, though underlying conditions can transform it into a life-threatening one.

Further Simone Glynn, the chief of the branch of blood epidemiology and clinical therapeutics at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institutes, tells the Times that "if there's an association with microcephaly or a neurological syndrome, we don't want to take the chance."