Sunday, November 6, 2016

CDC Whistleblower raises concern on Zika test sensitivity

While the globe has been put on edge because of the the Zika virus the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has dealt with their own internal strife regarding Zika. The debate was hinged on the best way to test for Zika cases. With such a back log of Zika samples the CDC has received pressure to find quicker ways to test and process these samples. Thus in March the CDC submitted an application for FDA approved emergency use of a new test Trioplex which can test for Zika as well as dengue and chikungunya. A day later the test was approved and being shipped to public health labs around the US. But Robert Lanciotti, chief of one of CDC’s viral diagnostic labs, found that the test missed 39 percent of of Zika infections as compared to the previous Singleplex diagnostic test, which contradicted the lab in Puerto Rico which found that the test was not less sensitive than the SIngleplex test. Regardless the Trioplex was still recommended thus Lanciotti emailed 30 public health laboratories stating that he will continue to use the Singlplex test and that the Trioplex test is less sensitive. This caused much confusion amongst laboratories and CDC officials continued with their original recommendation and demoted Lanciotti. Lanciotti filed a whistleblower retaliation claim and was eventually reinstated to his original position and in August the CDC increased its blood volume recommendations for the diagnostic test so that more viral sample will be present and can improve the sensitivity of sample testing.

-Vander Harris

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