In the midst of the fight to control Zika, the top public health agency in the United States has been engaged in an intense internal debate about the best way to test whether someone has been infected with the mosquito-borne virus.
At the center of the debate at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one of the leading experts on Zika virus. Robert Lanciotti is chief of the CDC lab responsible for developing tests to diagnose viral diseases such as Zika that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.
Lanciotti was demoted in May after he raised concerns inside and outside the agency about the CDC’s decision in the spring to recommend a new test for Zika. That test is substantially less effective than another established test, he said, and misses nearly 40 percent of Zika infections. He also said the agency withheld information about testing differences from state and local public health laboratories.
The scientist was reinstated to chief of his lab in July after he filed a whistleblower retaliation claim, according to documents made public Tuesday by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency that handles whistleblower complaints.