Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Posing questions about Zika virus

Asking questions about Zika virus

Zika virus was, it seems,discovered in 1947 by the Fockefeller Foundation

After Guy McPherson's discussion with Mark Austin late last years I think it behooves us to ask questions and take nothing for granted about the line being fed us about Zika virus which, if you believe the media, has appeared suddenly from thin air.

This article, republished in Zero Hedge asks some questions about the outbreak of this epidemic and the release of genetically-engineered mosquitos.

NatureBats last - follow-up show tocoversation with Mark Austin

Materialrelating to NBL interview with Mark Austin

Breaking: Zika Outbreak Epicenter in Same Area Where GM Mosquitoes Were Released in 2015

29 January, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) U.S.A. — The World Health Organization announced it will convene an Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations on Monday, February 1, concerning the Zika virus ‘explosive’ spread throughout the Americas. The virus reportedly has the potential to reach pandemic proportions — possibly around the globe. But understandingwhy this outbreak happened is vital to curbing it. As the WHOstatement said:

A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes … is strongly suspected. [These links] have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika, from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.

WHO is deeply concerned about this rapidly evolving situation for 4 main reasons: the possible association of infection with birth malformations and neurological syndromes; the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector; the lack of population immunity in newly affected areas; and the absence of vaccines, specific treatments, and rapid diagnostic tests […]

The level of concern is high, as is the level of uncertainty.”

Zika seemingly exploded out of nowhere. Though it was first discovered in 1947, cases only sporadically occurred throughout Africa and southern Asia. In 2007, the first case was reported in the Pacific. In 2013, a smattering of small outbreaks and individual cases were officially documented in Africa and the western Pacific. They also began showing up in the Americas. In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus — and the situation changed dramatically.

Brazil is now considered the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, which coincides with at least 4,000 reports of babies born with microcephaly just since October.

zika-microcephaly When examining a rapidly expanding potential pandemic, it’s necessary to leave no stone unturned so possible solutions, as well as future prevention, will be as effective as possible. In that vein, there was another significant development in 2015.

Oxitec first unveiled its large-scale, genetically-modified mosquito farm in Brazil in July 2012, with the goal of reducing “the incidence of dengue fever,” as The Disease Daily reported. Dengue fever is spread by the same Aedes mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus — and though they “cannot fly more than 400 meters,” WHO stated, “it may inadvertently be transported by humans from one place to another.” By July 2015, shortly after the GM mosquitoes were first released into the wild in Juazeiro, Brazil, Oxitec proudly announced they had “successfully controlled the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus, by reducing the target population by more than 90%.”

Though that might sound like an astounding success — and, arguably, it was — there is an alarming possibility to consider.

Nature, as one Redditor keenly pointed out, finds a way — and the effort to control dengue, zika, and other viruses, appears to have backfired dramatically.

Juazeiro, Brazil — the location where genetically-modified mosquitoes were first released into the wild.
Map showing the concentration of suspected Zika-related cases of microcephaly in Brazil.
The particular strain of Oxitec GM mosquitoes, OX513A, are genetically altered so the vast majority of their offspring will die before they mature — though Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher published concerns in a report in September 2010 that a known survival rate of 3-4 percent warranted further study before the release of the GM insects. Her concerns, which were echoed by several other scientists both at the time and since, appear to have been ignored — though they should not have been.

Those genetically-modified mosquitoes work to control wild, potentially disease-carrying populations in a very specific manner. Only the male modified Aedes mosquitoes are supposed to be released into the wild — as they will mate with their unaltered female counterparts. Once offspring are produced, the modified, scientific facet is supposed to ‘kick in’ and kill that larvae before it reaches breeding age — if tetracycline is not present during its development. 
But there is a problem.

Aedes aegypti mosquito. Image credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

According to an unclassified document from the Trade and Agriculture Directorate Committee for Agriculture dated February 2015, Brazil is the third largest in “global antimicrobial consumption in food animal production” — meaning, Brazil is third in the world for its use of tetracycline in its food animals. As a study by the American Society of Agronomy, et. al., explained, “It is estimated that approximately 75% of antibiotics are not absorbed by animals and are excreted in waste.” One of the antibiotics (or antimicrobials) specifically named in that report for its environmental persistence is tetracycline.

In fact, as a confidential internal Oxitec document divulged in 2012, that survival rate could be as high as 15% — even with low levels of tetracycline present. “Even small amounts of tetracycline can repress” the engineered lethality. Indeed, that 15% survival rate was described by Oxitec:

After a lot of testing and comparing experimental design, it was found that [researchers] had used a cat food to feed the [OX513A] larvae and this cat food contained chicken. It is known that tetracycline is routinely used to prevent infections in chickens, especially in the cheap, mass produced, chicken used for animal food. The chicken is heat-treated before being used, but this does not remove all the tetracycline. This meant that a small amount of tetracycline was being added from the food to the larvae and repressing the [designed] lethal system.”

Even absent this tetracycline, as Steinbrecher explained, a “sub-population” of genetically-modified Aedes mosquitoes could theoretically develop and thrive, in theory, “capable of surviving and flourishing despite any further” releases of ‘pure’ GM mosquitoes which still have that gene intact. She added, “the effectiveness of the system also depends on the [genetically-designed] late onset of the lethality. If the time of onset is altered due to environmental conditions … then a 3-4% [survival rate] represents a much bigger problem…”
As the WHO stated in its press release, “conditions associated with this year’s El Nino weather pattern are expected to increase mosquito populations greatly in many areas.”

Incidentally, President Obama called for a massive research effort to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus, as one does not currently exist. Brazil has now called in 200,000 soldiers to somehow help combat the virus’ spread. Aedes mosquitoes have reportedly been spotted in the U.K. But perhaps the most ironic — or not —proposition was proffered on January 19, by the MIT Technology Review:

An outbreak in the Western Hemisphere could give countries including the United States new reasons to try wiping out mosquitoes with genetic engineering.

Yesterday, the Brazilian city of Piracicaba said it would expand the use of genetically modified mosquitoes …

The GM mosquitoes were created by Oxitec, a British company recently purchased by Intrexon, a synthetic biology company based in Maryland. The company said it has released bugs in parts of Brazil and the Cayman Islands to battle dengue fever.”

This article was written by  Claire Bernish for  theAntiMedia.org

From the Daily Mail in Britain

Are scientists to blame for Zika virus? Researchers released genetically modified mosquitos into Brazil three years ago

  • Didcot-based firm Oxitec genetically modified mosquitoes in 2012
  • They were released into Brazil to target disease-carrying insects
  • It has led to claims the modified bugs could have sparked Zika outbreak
  • But Oxitec denies this and has been asked to expand its work in Brazil


The Aedes mosquito, pictured, was genetically modified by British firm Oxitec in 2012 and released into Brazil to mate with disease carrying bugs and produce offspring that would quickly die off, reducing the numbers

The maintream has wasted no time in labelling this as "conspiracy theory"

Spreadof GM mosquito conspiracy theory hurts fight against Zika

Amidst all the fear surrounding the Zika virus outbreak, there is an egregious bit of misinformation being circulated that the outbreak could somehow be the result of genetically modified mosquitoes that were being tested to control mosquito populations.

According to a report in Business Insider which was the first to refute the story, the theory of seems to have originated on the social media site Reddit (under the subcategory ‘conspiracy’). Subsequently, an article titled “GMO mosquitoes could be cause of Zika outbreak, critics say,” appeared on the website of Russia Today (a government funded news network that is known to promote conspiracy theories). A day later, the UK tabloid Daily Mail published a similar piece with the title “Are scientists to blame for Zika virus? Researchers released genetically modified mosquitos into Brazil three years ago.” Worryingly, more articles are appearing on smaller news outlets and being shared on other social media sites as well.

The idea carries no scientific weight or credibility, and such news reports also highlight the same kind of poor reporting that undermined legitimate communication efforts during the Ebola outbreak last year, threatening to move focus away from what is important—making sure that people receive the most up to date and accurate information possible.

Oxitec, the company behind the trials, are attempting to reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which are the major vectors for carrying mosquito borne diseases like dengue, chikungunya and Zika by creating genetically engineering sterile males. The trials that have been conducted in the past few years have proved so successful that the city of Piracicaba recently entered into an agreement with Oxitec to expand its efforts and build a larger facility. (See this GLP article from last week for a detailed look at how the mosquito works).

You don’t have to look too far beneath the surface to see that the recent claims of modified mosquitoes causing Zika have no merits. There is no evidence presented and the chief ‘critical’ quote is taken from a 2012 comment made by Helen Wallace, head of the anti-GMO group GeneWatch in response Oxitec’s mosquito trials conducted that year. For a thorough debunking of the claims in the Zika conspiracy theory, see this blog which breaks down several conspiracies surrounding the Zika outbreak. Lydia Ramsey of Business Insider also makes several pertinent points as to why no one should believe in it. And when she actually interviewed an expert, this is what he said:

When we chatted with Alex Perkins, a Notre Dame biological sciences professor, about the Zika mosquito conspiracy, he told us nothing could be farther from the truth.

In fact, “It could very well be the case that genetically modified mosquitos could end up being one of the most important tools that we have to combat Zika,” Perkins said. “If anything, we should potentially be looking into using these more.”

The world will always have conspiracy theorists. But my ire in this case, is not directed at them. Instead it is more at reporters and editors who think it is appropriate to publish unfounded claims with no supporting information whatsoever. The Daily Mail is not known for its quality of reporting but it is a newspaper with a very large readership, both in print and online. Mail Online, the website of the Daily Mail has over 11.4 million daily visitors, and by all measures Russia Today is widely viewed as well, given that the article has been shared close to 15,000 times on Facebook. Achieving such a large reader base comes a degree of responsibility which increases greatly during a time of crisis, when the need for information is extremely high.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak was a watershed moment for health reporting that we can look back to see how misinformation changed the outlook of the epidemic. Social media in retrospect had made things better and worse—better in that it easier to get the right word out about what people can and should do in a health emergency, but worse in that it is harder to control the spread of misinformation. As Victor Luckerson wrote in TIME during the Ebola crisis:

Trying to stem the spread of bad information online actually shares many similarities with containing a real-world virus. Infected Internet users, who may have picked up bogus info from an inaccurate media report, another person on social media or word-of-mouth, proceed to “infect” others with each false tweet or Facebook post.


Moments of crisis, when there’s a vacuum of accurate information, only exacerbate this. “Fear has a role,” says Emilio Ferrara, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University’s Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. “If I read something that leverages my fears, my judgement would be obfuscated, and I could be more prone to spread facts that are obviously wrong under the pressure of these feelings.”

He also quoted the role of the CDC in making accurate information available, saying “Quick, accurate information disseminated as widely as possible, experts say, is the only way to combat the spread of falsities.”

We are fighting a pandemic that has health officials around the world scrambling for solutions. And we are doing so with a very limited set of tools. The Oxitec mosquitoes has proved to be safe and successful on a small scale and it will be many more years of testing and field trials before we will know whether it can be used safely and efficiently on a large scale. However, spreading misinformation about its use only serves to promote fear and could potentially delay its course – a dangerous outcome, given that this is unlikely to be the last mosquito borne epidemic we will see.

In a recent panel discussion conducted by the DC Science Writers Association about reporting during the Ebola crisis, Joel Achenbach, a reporter for the Washington Post talked about the responsibility of the journalists, saying, “our challenge at the Post was to be a good filter of the news so that we would not feed the hysteria.” We are yet again faced with a similar situation ripe for the spread of hysteria. Let’s hope we do better this time.

1 comment:

  1. GMO Mosquitoes linked to Z.V.6 - I've written & shared info about the dangers of vaccines, so I don't normally suggest them, however I personally have gotten all my "shots" even shingles shot up-to-date. I really don't want to support selling anything - yet the approaching danger is high enough that I recommend having Doxycycline, Augmentin, Cipro or Bactrim in a kit while it is still easy to obtain in USA. For those who are willing to look at the evidence on there own, there are hundreds of pages on Synthetic Bio and viral genetic splicing avail. Much more of course with low level security clearance & paid access to MIT, CDC, NIH, Stanford libraries.

    US groups that back the Kiev regime have “accidentally” armed al-Nusra and ISIS. We also suspect that what is happening in Georgia now is part of a regional pattern, established through America’s attempts to stage false flag chemical attacks in Syria and blame them on Assad, as what is happening now is consistent with other CIA operations dating back to at least the late 1950s, such as Operation Paperclip, in which the US imported Nazi and Imperial Japanese scientists to develop crop diseases and other pathogens which were subsequently released on Russia and Cuba.

    I am still close friends with many of my associates *Intel Analyist* who report to more than one Dept under the HS/CIA/NSA umbrella. Having conducted their “preliminary research” reports from field ops, the Georgian population are now being used as white rats without their knowledge.

    By 6-1-16 A biological consortium is about to use the Tbilisi lab to mount a deadly chemical or biological release, covering a wide area/2016/01/31/lugar-bio-laboratory-in-tbilisi-latest-it-s-getting-worse-by-the-day/

    C.A.P. Cities Contagion Action Plan is a major Fed plan due by this June just in case an "event" requires Marshall Law later this summer or fall. NATO connected Depts of Biodefense are sure that induced pandemics will be more effective and under control that other types of warfare. Still, it is a huge risk if there is not enough trained professionals to secure the Nuclear plants after the fact. It's a catch 22 with massive population not willing to decommission - vs - De-pop causing fast warming after sulfate particle fallout. From Beijing to London consequence management teams are working to help "insure" a controlled global crash. MARK AUSTIN