Stillwater laboratory awarded $2.6 million to develop Zika test

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The fight to take on the Zika virus now has a Minnesota connection.

A $2.6 million agreement with DiaSorin Group (an Italy-based company with offices in Stillwater) to further develop a Zika virus test was announced by the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office.

“Accurate, rapid Zika diagnostic tests to determine whether someone recently has been infected are critical to ensuring the best health outcomes during the current outbreak,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, acting director for ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The laboratory test DiaSorin is developing can test up to 120 samples at one time and generate results within an hour. If it works, physicians will be able to determine more quickly whether a patient has been infected with Zika.

The contract supports the development of the diagnostic test, design improvements that may be needed, manufacturing preparations and clinical trials that could support its application for FDA clearance.

Zika in Minnesota

Although it can be passed from human to human, Zika is mostly transmitted via mosquitoes, and the only place in the United States where Zika-infected mosquitoes have been found is in Florida.

In May, two pregnant women in Minnesota were confirmed to have contracted the Zika virus, one having visited El Salvador and the other getting a sexually-transmitted infection from her husband after he visited Haiti, MPR reports.

It’s unlikely that Zika-carrying mosquitoes will come to Minnesota, as the climate is too cold for them to survive long-term.

According the CDC, there have been 31 confirmed cases of Zika in Minnesota, all of them travel-associated cases.

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