UPDATE 2-U.S. FDA recommends ban on blood collections from Zika-affected areas
(Adds expert comment, details on FDA recommendations)
By Toni Clarke
WASHINGTON Feb 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended on Tuesday that blood should no longer be collected from regions where the Zika virus is circulating, and that blood needed for transfusions be obtained from areas of the country without active transmission.
The agency said blood banks can continue collecting and preparing platelets and plasma if an FDA-approved pathogen-reduction technology is used. Current pathogen-reduction technology is not approved to treat whole red blood, which is used for most transfusions.
The guidelines come as Zika is spreading rapidly through the Americas, with more than 30 affected countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The virus has been linked to a spike in cases of a rare birth defect known as microcephaly in Brazil, prompting health officials to declare a global health emergency.
Researchers have begun to study the consequences of Zika transmission through the blood, but that work could take six to 12 months to produce results. In the meantime, the FDA said people at risk of having been infected with the virus defer donating blood for at least four weeks.
"We believe the new recommendations will help reduce the risk of collecting blood and blood components from donors who may be infected with the Zika virus," Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's biologics division, said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa as areas with active Zika transmission and health experts expect some localized outbreaks may occur in the southeastern United States later this year.
There is considerable evidence from prior Zika outbreaks that the virus can be transmitted in the blood. What is less clear is whether that transmission causes the recipient to become ill. Dengue and chikungunya viruses, which are carried by the same mosquito as the Zika virus, do not typically cause illness in patients when transfused. Continuación...