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CDC Bolstering Network of Zika Testing Facilities

With more than 90 locally transmitted cases of Zika virus infection confirmed in Florida, and states from the southeast to the Midwest fearing similar outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made bolstering its network of approved testing laboratories for the virus a priority.

With more than 90 locally transmitted cases of Zika virus infection confirmed in Florida, and states from the southeast to the Midwest fearing similar outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made bolstering its network of approved testing laboratories for the virus a priority.

In August alone, the agency spent $2.5 million of its limited budget for Zika—given continued inaction on funding legislation in Congress—on lab supplies and equipment to "enhance US lab capacity... [to] help ensure that states can meet the growing demand for testing and rapid identification of infection." At present, 43 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and 9 Department of Defense (DoD) medical facilities operate CDC-certified labs offering full testing capabilities for the mosquito-borne virus. Additional testing capacity is available through the CDC's Laboratory Response Network, which includes 130 facilities in all 50 states.

Even with all of these approved labs, however, getting a confirmed result may take as many as 4 weeks following sample collection, the CDC said.

"To help states expand access to Zika testing and reduce the amount of time to receive results, CDC has sent materials to help them expand lab capacity and perform testing to detect both current and recent cases of infection," the agency noted in a press release. The materials enable these labs to perform the MAC-ELISA assays, which were developed by the CDC and designed to detect immunoglobulin M, the antibodies known to fight Zika virus in humans, as well as the Trioplex rRT-PCR test, which can assess samples for chikungunya, dengue, and Zika virus in a single test. To date, labs in 48 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and 16 DoD labs have been outfitted to perform this test.

In addition, according to the CDC, agency-run labs in Atlanta, Fort Collins, and Puerto Rico, have been "processing a high volume of tests" of samples collected across the country. Samples received by CDC facilities are prioritized based on the pregnancy status of the patient, among other criteria.

​Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.