Blood test detects West Nile virus

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 26, 2005

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A blood test was approved Dec. 1 by the Food and Drug Administration to screen donors of blood, organs, cells and tissues for West Nile virus. The new test is expected to help protect patients who receive blood and other products from infection with the virus.

There have been 30 documented cases of people who likely acquired West Nile from a blood transfusion, including nine who died. The virus appeared in the United States in 1999 and has reoccurred each year since, causing 20,000 cases of the disease and at least 762 deaths. It is estimated that between 1 million and 2 million people have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus.

An effort to develop a blood test to detect the virus began in 2002. Various investigational tests were used in the nation's blood banks both to evaluate their effectiveness and as an interim measure to protect the blood supply. The tests have resulted in the detection and removal of about 1,600 infected donations, according to the FDA.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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