WASHINGTON — Some of the 409 people tested for the Zika virus last year by D.C.’s public health lab are awaiting the results of retesting after the lab discovered its Zika test was defective.
A D.C. Council committee summoned the director of the Department of Forensic Sciences, Dr. Jennifer Smith, to explain why D.C.’s lab had the erroneous Zika test results — the only one in the nation to do so.
“It was a human error in establishing this protocol, so the protocol was wrong, and then we distributed that same protocol to others,” Smith told the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. “Similar to cooking, if you put the wrong ingredients in something … you put [in] inactivated yeast, the bread won’t rise,” she said.
Smith testified that the lead scientist in charge of the Zika testing for the D.C. lab put an incorrect testing formula into an Excel spreadsheet. The scientist’s action spread the mistake to all others conducting Zika testing between July 14 and Dec. 14 of last year.
Retesting at other labs has revealed that at least two pregnant women told by the D.C. lab that they did not have the virus in fact had Zika or a related disease.
“I would do anything to un-ring the bell, but we cannot,” Smith told the committee. ” … We need to, obviously, change our quality assurance measures in the assessment of the protocols.”
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