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Whistleblower says CDC is using wrong Zika test

Nov
26

Date: November 26th, 2016

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some of the top experts fighting against Zika virus. The CDC lab develops tests to diagnose viral diseases like Zika that are transmitted via fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. This fraction is headed by a chief, Robert Lanciotti.

Whistleblower fired and reinstated

Lanciotti was fired in May this year after he raised concerns regarding the efficiency of the Zika test. He voiced out his arguments both internal and external in the spring of recommendations for a new test for Zika. He said that the said test is less effective compared to another established test and that it fails to capture about 40 percent of Zika infections. He also pointed out the possibility of the agency hiding information regarding testing differences in local public and states health laboratories.

The scientist then filed a whistleblower retaliation claim which led to his reinstating earlier in July. This is as per the publicly released documents by the Office of Special Counsel. This is an independent federal watchdog body that deals with complaints of whistleblowers.

Lanciotti raised important questions that subsequently led to the CDC being placed under investigation. Among the recently released documents was the report of the investigation. A review of this was sent to the White House and Congress.

CDC Acknowledges the challenge

In report provided by CDC, the health agency acknowledges that it is difficult to test for Zika virus and that improvements are not easy either. CDC goes on to add that it is working on improvements that will help make the testing process be quicker and efficient.

According to the internal investigation, CDC was found to have acted in a reasonable manner to withhold conflicting health data from the public health laboratories. The investigators said that releasing such information could have led to unwarranted confusion at a time the emergency was at its peak.

The debate has raised issues that prove it is a challenge to manage one of the world’s biggest health challenges at a time when the agency continuously requested for funds held by the Congress. Additional funds into the research could have potentially helped in the development of extensive studies of the tests. Particularly, the debate opens our eyes on the pressure faced by CDC when it comes to developing an accurate diagnostic test for a disease that is still poorly understood.

CDC Report on the revelation

After the revelation, CDC released a statement in which the agency said it had carried out investigations and determined the allegations were not substantiated by the evidence. The statement went on to explain that the agency will continue to offer its public health partners with best available science and tools to handle the epidemic.

CDC said that they “need simpler quicker tests. To date, HHS has obligated more than $20 million toward the development of diagnostic tests for Zika.”

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