Zika virus belongs to the Flaviviridae family of viruses which includes Dengue, Yellow Fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile viruses.1 Zika virus is mainly spread by infected mosquitoes, though transmission may also occur through mother-to-child, sexual intercourse and infected donor blood used for transfusions.2
There is evidence linking Zika virus infection to birth defects in fetuses and newborns, and neurological complications in adults.3,4 Based on a systematic review of the scientific literature, in 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause congenital brain abnormalities, including microcephaly; in addition, the virus is a trigger of Guillain-Barré syndrome.5 In February 2016, WHO subsequently declared Zika virus infection a public health emergency.6 Today, Zika virus infection remains a significant public health challenge, but is no longer classified as a public health emergency.7
Zika virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusions with contaminated blood.8 Zika virus infection can be devastating for patients with weaker immune systems such as the elderly, or people living with cancer (also people who are more likely to receive a blood transfusion).9 Facilitating accurate detection to reduce the risk of transmission, particularly via contaminated blood, provides patients and healthcare providers with the confidence and reassurance of safe blood transfusions.8
Screening for the Zika virus is a viable emergency preparedness solution for donors who may have been exposed to the tropical disease. The testing of donated blood samples for the Zika virus can be done using approved, commercially available screening assays such as the cobas® Zika test for use on the cobas® 6800/8800 Systems.