Neurologic Complications of Dengue

Truth About Zika?

 The Washington Post reports that, almost nine months after Zika was declared a global health emergency, the virus has infected at least 650,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean, including tens of thousands of expectant mothers.

But to the great bewilderment of scientists, the epidemic has not produced the wave of fetal deformities so widely feared when the images of misshapen infants first emerged from Brazil.

Instead, Zika has left a puzzling and distinctly uneven pattern of damage across the Americas. According to the latest U.N. figures, of the 2,175 babies born in the past year with undersize heads or other congenital neurological damage linked to Zika, more than 75 percent have been clustered in a single region: northeastern Brazil.

The pattern is so confounding that health officials and scientists have turned their attention back to northeastern ­Brazil to understand why Zika’s toll has been so much heavier there. They suspect that other, underlying causes may be to blame, such as the presence of another ­mosquito-borne virus like chikungunya or dengue. Or that environmental, genetic or immunological factors combined with Zika to put mothers in the area at greater risk.

 

“We don’t believe that Zika is the only cause,” Fatima Marinho, director of the noncommunicable disease department at Brazil’s Ministry of Health, said in an interview.

Brazilian officials were bracing for a flood of fetal deformities as Zika spread this year to other regions of the country, Marinho said. However, “we are not seeing a big increase.”

Researchers and health officials remain cautious about the lower-than-expected numbers. The latest studies have found more evidence than ever that the virus can inflict severe damage on the developing infant brain, some of which may not be evident until later in childhood.

New York’s Aedes Mosquito Program

New York’s health department has and Aedes mosquito eradiction program and is investing in new technologies to halt the rapid spread of dengue fever in the densely populated city.

An Asian tiger mosquito. Credit: CDC/Wikimedia Commons                          Asian tiger mosquito: CDC/Wikimedia

If you haven’t spent a summer in New York you may not know how tropical its climate can be. Months of sultry heat and cloudbursts make mosquito outbreaks common. Mosquitos and mosquito-borne diseases have been part of New York life for centuries but the recent establishment of Aedes Aegypti has raised new problems.  Health department trucks have been spraying pesticide in the streets and flyers on street corners urge people to stay indoors.

New York Health Department has been using a mosquito “adulticide” this year: pesticides which kill flying insects rather than their larvae. It’s  usually done as a last resort when other methods have failed but this year, New York has been spraying aggressively to eliminate Aedes albopictus, a carrier of the Zika virus, and switching to a new insecticide that specifically targets Aedes.

Like Delhi, Singapore and Miami, New York is struggling to contain Dengue outbreaks caused by Aedes aegypti, the primary carrier for a host of viruses like chikungunya and Zika. Delhi’s chikungunya outbreak resulted in more than a thousand new cases reported last week. In New York, Aedes cousing, Aedes albopictus (aka Asian tiger mosquito) has not infected anyone yet but the health department is treating the mosquito like a disease carrier. NYHD announced a three-year, $21 million Zika prevention campaign and much of that is being spent on mosquito control. At a recent event, NYHD health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said, “We’re just trying to kill the Aedes mosquito.”

Aedes albopictus is known to carry more than 20 viruses and was responsible for a global chikungunya epidemic ten years ago. A native of Southeast Asia, it has spread far and wide and is on the list of 100 most invasive species on the planet. The Asian tiger was first discovered in the USA in a mosquito trap in a Memphis cemetery in 1983. Since then it’s spread to 40 states and today can be found as far north as Maine. Investigators suspect it arrived in the US in used auto tires from Japan or Taiwan.

Many New Yorkers have felt its bite at a backyard barbeque. “The entire metropolitan area is infested,” says Dr. Laura Harrington, Chair of the Department of Entomology at Cornell University. She and her students are  mapping Aedes albopictus spread in the Hudson valley and have been picking up dead mosquitos from back yards across Westchester County. Long, hot summers and unpredictable weather have contributed to the growth of the mosquito in the New York area, Harrington says.

NYHD is aware that mosquito-borne diseases can spread rapidly in densely populated urban areas (Aedes is an urban, indoor mosquito) and is experimenting with the novel the BG-Sentinel trap, which has  proven useful in capturing Aedes and tracking mosquitoes in their natural habitat like back yards, cemeteries and public parks. A collapsible, fabric container the size of an ice bucket, it releases ammonia, lactic acid and a  chemical cocktail that mimic the scent of human skin. The New Yorker says the traps “smell like a hot subway car during rush hour.” The traps’ contents, a heap of dead mosquitoes, are sent to a public health lab where they are tested for the presence of Zika virus.

NYHD made a user-friendly mosquito map based on tracking data with  orange dots marking Aedes hotspots and blue dots for the Culex mosquito (West Nile virus carrier). The department is sharing this information with the public for the first time this year. The northern Queens neighbourhood of College Point, which was “ground zero” for the West Nile epidemic of 1999,  has the highest mosquito counts because local wetlands and marshes are an ideal breeding ground for Culex but now there are signs that the Asian tiger presence is growing. “I’ve picked lots of Aedes in College Point,” says Dr. James Cervino, a Queens-based marine biologist who’s been examining neighborhood mosquitoes in as part of his research on climate change. Queens, he says has a number of  “blighted areas” with thriving mosquito populations and the interactive map hotspots are just the tip of the iceberg.

Forested and swampy areas in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island are the focus of mosquito control efforts early in the season. Ponds and lakes are treated with larvicide dropped by helicopter.

Because Aedes albopictus hides in tree holes and stumps, sprayed insecticides which kill adult mosquitoes are less effective in there . The new pesticides this year may help overcome this.  Duet (the commercial name for the pesticide) has an added an ingredient, which acts as an irritant to draw mosquitoes out of their hard-to-reach spots and forces them to fly around. Once airborne, the mosquito comes in contact with an ultra-low volume spray of a synthetic pyrethroid called sumithrin, which kills them on contact. Duet was tested at the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers University and found to be almost  100% effective on a sample of Asian Tiger mosquitoes from New Jersey.

New York has the largest outbreak of Zika cases in the US: 599 people have the disease, tough all contracted the virus overseas. Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out that the city is home to a large Caribbean and Latin American community: “Right now, the central challenge is people who bring it back”.  Pregnant women are urged not to travel to these regions as the virus can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly. In some Bronx immigrant neighborhoods the virus is already a concern. “We have quite a few cases of pregnant women from the Dominican Republic with Zika.” said Dr. Tammy R. Gruenberg, an obstetrician at the Women’s Health Pavilion at Morris Heights Health Center.  Doctors there have been handing out prevention kits to pregnant women planning trips to a Zika-affected countries. The kit contains insect repellent spray, condoms and two donut-shaped “dunks” that kill mosquito larvae in standing water.

With temperatures dropping, the threat of locally transmitted Zika in New York is dropping but the Asian tiger mosquito is still a concern. To truly defeat Aedes, Laura Harrington feels big cities cannot just rely on larvicides and pesticides: “We’ve been spraying for decades. We need new ways to target mosquitoes, safer insecticides and rapid development of vaccines.”

 

Dengue Zika Mosquitoes

The Dengue mosquito is aedes aegypti and the zika mosquito is aedes albopictus, usually called ‘The Asian tiger mosquito’Aegypti feeds mornings and evenings, while albopictus feeds during the day. This is the dengue mosquito, Aedes Aegypti:

Dengue Pandemic Vector
Dengue Pandemic Vector

The Asian tiger mosquito particularly bites in forests during the day, so has been known as the forest day mosquito. This is Aedes Albopictus:

Aedes Albopictus the Zika Mosquito
Aedes Albopictus the Zika Mosquito

It takes an expert to tell the difference!

Depending upon region and biotype, activity peaks differ, but for the most part, they rest during the morning and night hours. They search for their hosts inside and outside of human dwellings, but are particularly active outside. The size of the blood meal depends upon the size of the mosquito, but it is usually around 2 μl. Their bites are not necessarily painful, but they are more noticeable than those from other kinds of mosquitoes. Tiger mosquitoes generally tend to bite a human host more than once if they are able to.[22][24]

Ae. albopictus also bites other mammals besides humans, as well as birds.[22][24] The females are always on the search for a host and are persistent but cautious when it comes to their blood meal and host location. Their blood meal is often broken off before enough blood has been ingested for the development of their eggs, so Asian tiger mosquitoes bite multiple hosts during their development cycle of the egg, making them particularly efficient at transmitting diseases. The mannerism of biting diverse host species enables the Asian tiger mosquito to be a potential bridge vector for certain pathogens that can jump species boundaries, for example the West Nile virus.

Here’s a video explaining the two mosquitoes’ habits:

Dengue Health Insurance?

Holy cow, now we’ve got dengue health insurance!

Dengue Mosquito Net: insurance?
Dengue Mosquito Net: insurance?

“We have now moved into digital under the overall ambit of protection focus that we have. We could have easily gone digital with a term plan or ULIPs. That was not our idea of going digital. We wanted to use a very relevant product as our strategy to go digital”, Anoop Pabby, Managing Director & CEO, DPLI told Business Line here.

DHFL Dengue Shield is an affordable Dengue Insurance Policy with premium as low as ₹ 1 per day. It is fixed benefits policy and no detailed bills at the time of claim.

An individual has the option to choose sum insured from ₹ 25,000 to ₹ 50,000. Options of both Single and annual premium payment exist in Dengue Shield where a customer can enjoy a discount of up to 21 per cent on Single Premium payment.

Pabby also said that group version of Dengue Shield would soon be available.

DPLI has signed an agreement with Itz Cash to provide customer awareness about Dengue Shield through their 20,000 plus retail touch points in Delhi for the initial phase.

Meanwhile, Pabby said that DPLI was aiming at a new business premium of ₹ 1,000 crore this fiscal. This aim represents 36 per cent increase over new business premium of ₹ 736 crore recorded in 2015-16.

srivats.kr@thehindu.co.in

Dengue Shock Syndrome

What is Dengue Shock Syndrome?

Dengue Shock Syndrome is a collection of symptoms resulting from a dengue infection. Its symptoms – including hemorrhaging – resemble those you’d see after an accident, when someone is ‘in shock’. Typically, older children or adults suffer 2–7 days of high fever and show two or more of the following symptoms:

  • severe headache,
  • retro-orbital eye pain,
  • myalgias,
  • arthralgias,
  • a diffuse erythematous maculo-papular rash, and
  • mild hemorrhagic manifestation.
  • Subtle, minor epithelial hemorrhage, in the form of petechiae, are often found on the lower extremities (but may occur on buccal mucosa, hard and soft palates and or subconjunctivae as well), easy bruising on the skin, or the patient may have a positive tourniquet test.
  • Other forms of hemorrhage such as epistaxis, gingival bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, or urogenital bleeding can also occur, but are rare.
  • Leukopenia is frequently found and may be accompanied by varying degrees of thrombocytopenia.
  • Children may also present with nausea and vomiting.
  • Patients with DF do not develop substantial plasma leak (hallmark of DHF and DSS, see below) or extensive clinical hemorrhage.
Dengue virus image
Dengue virus: Dengue Shock Syndrome

Serological testing for anti-dengue IgM antibodies or molecular testing for dengue viral RNA or viral isolation can confirm the diagnosis, but these tests often provide only retrospective confirmation, as lab results are typically not available until well after the patient has recovered.

Clinical presentation of DF and the early phase of DHF are similar, and therefore it can be difficult to differentiate between the two forms early in the course of illness. With close monitoring of key indicators, the development of DHF can be detected at the time of defervescence so that early and appropriate therapy can be initiated.

The key to successfully managing patients with dengue infection and lowering the probability of medical complications or death due to DHF or DSS is early recognition and anticipatory treatment(For more detailed guidance on management for DF please see the recommended treatment courses for DHF in the links listed below.)

Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) or Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS): The third clinical presentation results in the development of DHF, which in some patients progresses to DSS. Vigilant is critical for identifying warning signs of progressing illness and early symptoms of DHF which are very similar to those of DF. Case Definitions Page

There are three phases of DHF:

  1. the Febrile Phase;
  2. the Critical (Plasma Leak) Phase; and
  3. the Convalescent (Reabsorption) Phase.

The Febrile Phase: Early in the course of illness, patients with DHF can present much like DF, but they may also have hepatomegaly without jaundice (later in the Febrile Phase). The hemorrhagic manifestations that occur in the early course of DHF most frequently consist of mild hemorrhagic manifestations as in DF. Less commonly, epistaxis, bleeding of the gums, or frank gastrointestinal bleeding occur while the patient is still febrile (gastrointestinal bleeding may commence at this point, but commonly does not become apparent until a melenic stool is passed much later in the course). Dengue viremia is typically highest in the first three to four days after onset of fever but then falls quickly to undetectable levels over the next few days. The level of viremia and fever usually follow each other closely, and anti-dengue IgM anti-bodies increase as fever abates.

The Critical (Plasma Leak) Phase: About the time when the fever abates, the patient enters a period of highest risk for developing the severe manifestations of plasma leak and hemorrhage. At this time, it is vital to watch for evidence of hemorrhage and plasma leak into the pleural and abdominal cavities and to implement appropriate therapies replacing intravascular losses and stabilizing effective volume. If left untreated, this can lead to intravascular volume depletion and cardiovascular compromise. Evidence of plasma leak includes sudden increase in hematocrit (≥20% increase from baseline), presence of ascites, a new pleural effusion on lateral decubitus chest x-ray, or low serum albumin or protein for age and sex. Patients with plasma leak should be monitored for early changes in hemodynamic parameters consistent with compensated shock such as increased heart rate (tachycardia) for age especially in the absence of fever, weak and thready pulse, cool extremities, narrowing pulse pressure (systolic blood pressure minus diastolic blood pressure <20 mmHg), delayed capillary refill (>2 seconds), and decrease in urination (i.e., oliguria). Patients exhibiting signs of increasing intravascular depletion, impending or frank shock, or severe hemorrhage should be admitted to an appropriate level intensive care unit for monitoring and intravascular volume replacement. Once a patient experiences frank shock he or she will be categorized as having DSS. Prolonged shock is the main factor associated with complications that can lead to death including massive gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Interestingly, many patients with DHF/DSS remain alert and lucid throughout the course of the illness, even at the tipping point of profound shock. CDC:

Doctors: See case definition for DHF and DSS. Adobe PDF fileExternal Web Site IconThere are no good videos about dengue shock syndrome, but this text video might help:

Dengue Bribery in Philippines?

Was there Dengue bribery in Philippines? Questions hover over Asia’s first dengue vaccination program in Philippines.

Dengue Mosquito
Dengue Mosquito: Asian Tiger

The Aedes aegypti mosquito carries the dengue virus, Zika virus, and other mosquito-borne illnesses as it travels from person to person.

Asia’s first dengue vaccine has been distributed in a mass school-based immunization program in the Philippines. So far, the program appears to be running without difficulties, but some health professionals are concerned that the vaccine was released before researchers could ensure its long-term safety.

From the beginning, the vaccine’s French manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur has been concerned about a potential problem with the vaccine — that while it could help prevent dengue initially, it could later increase the severity of the disease, according to Dr. Antonio Dans, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

“The real dengue we are afraid of is severe dengue, not the mild ones,” Dans said in a statement. “If a vaccine prevents mild disease but causes severe dengue, we shouldn’t be using it at all.”

This possibility is being monitored by the vaccine’s developer, Dans said in a news release; and since the phenomenon may happen a full three years after immunization occurs, it will take some time to study the vaccine’s long term effects.

However, as the virus infects as many as 400 million people annually, the vaccine for dengue has been awaited with increasing impatience. In an effort to stem the spread of the virus in regions heavily burdened by the disease, the WHO recommended that the drug be introduced in dengue-endemic sites while awaiting prequalification.

According to the organization, the WHO is now waiting on an application from the vaccine’s manufacturer.

The vaccine, Dengvaxia, has also been registered in Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador. Now, the Philippines — which in 2015 saw an almost 60 percent increase in dengue cases from the year prior — has become the first to make the vaccine commercially available.

“This initiative sends a strong message to the rest of the … world that dengue vaccination is a critical addition to integrated disease prevention efforts,” according to a statement from the vaccine’s developer Sanofi Pasteur.

The official launch of the school-based immunization program on April 4 sidestepped a prequalification procedure by the WHO, as is standard for new vaccines to ensure safety and effectiveness. This raised additional concern from some medical professionals, according to Philippine media network GMA, who say the immunization program should not have skipped the prequalification process, especially considering such limited knowledge of the vaccine’s long-term side effects.

Still, the company said the Dengvaxia vaccine, which took 20 years and $1.8 billion to develop, should prevent 80 percent of dengue-related hospitalizations and up to 93 percent of cases of severe hemorrhagic dengue fever. The vaccine is designed for people ages 9 to 45, and is administered in three separate doses over a six-month period.

Since the start of the immunization program last month, Dengvaxia has been administered to more than 200,000 grade-school students in the capital city of Manila. Of 17,000 people who were injected with the vaccine in the Philippines in February as part of the clinical study, just 27 developed side effects, Health Undersecretary Vicente Belizario told reporters.

According to Health Minister Janette Garin, the $103 million program aims to administer the first dose of the vaccine to 1 million children by June.

The history of developing a vaccine for dengue has been wrought with challenges. An effective vaccine must protect against four closely related viruses that can cause the disease, and researchers have had limited understanding of how the virus affects the immune system. Among other barriers making vaccine development more difficult, there are no easily measurable sign (such as antibodies) that a person is immune to the disease.

The WHO estimates that dengue fever, the world’s most common mosquito-borne virus, infects an estimated 390 million people around the world each year. So far this year, more than 33,000 dengue cases have been recorded in the Philippines alone. Read more…

 

Dengue Pandemic

Are we looking at a Dengue Pandemic soon?

Will Climate Change Bring a Dengue Pandemic?

Dengue Pandemic Vector
Dengue Pandemic Vector

Dr Shahera Banu, and colleagues from QUT’s Faculty of Health, investigated the impact of climate change on transmission of the mosquito-borne disease and found there would be “devastating” consequences. Dr Banu analysed high-risk areas for dengue fever transmission in the Asia-Pacific region, with particular focus on Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and a megacity of 11.8 million people.

Using modelling from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which predicts an annual average temperature rise for the South Asia region of 3.3 degrees by 2100, the research found there would be a swell of dengue cases. The research has been published in the journals PLOS One and Environment International.

“Without any changes in the socio-economic situation, by the end of this century there will be a projected annual increase of 16,030 cases in Dhaka,” Dr Banu said.”The consequence of this will be devastating.”

The warmer temperatures and humidity would provide optimal conditions for mosquitos to thrive, Dr Banu said. The research collected the monthly number of dengue cases in Dhaka from January 2000 to December 2010 and estimated 377 cases attributable to temperature variation in 2010.

“Assuming a 1 degree temperature increase in 2100, we project an increase of 583 cases, for 2 degrees it would be 2,782 but it is at 3.3 degrees, a rise the IPCC has projected, that will have an overwhelming impact,” Dr Banu said.”Our results show that the monthly temperature and humidity were significantly associated with the monthly dengue incidence in Dhaka.

“These results are consistent with findings of other studies and may assist to forecast dengue outbreaks in different regions.”

Dengue Epidemic Viral Diagnosis
Dengue Epidemic Viral Diagnosis

Dr Banu said places with similar weather conditions to Dhaka would also likely be at risk from a climate change-driven increase in dengue cases.”We’re hopeful this research will be helpful for improving surveillance of dengue fever and control through effective management and community education programs in Bangladesh and other countries in a similar situation,” she said.

Here’s a report about Singapore’s recent, unexpected dengue outbreak: Epidemic resurgence of dengue fever in Singapore in 2013-2014: A virological and entomological perspective. Long story short: The culmination of the latest epidemic is likely to be due to a number of demographic, social, virological, entomological, immunological, climatic and ecological factors that contribute to DENV transmission. A multi-pronged approach backed by the epidemiological, virological and entomological understanding paved way to moderate the case burden through an integrated vector management approach.

Dengue Zika Larvicides

Are Dengue, Zika and GM Mosquitoes Connected by a larvicide?

Could it be that Dengue, Zika and Larvicides are connected? Dengue, and outbreak of Zica, and GM mosquitoes are being discussed in the same breath. The Zica disease is similar to dengue, and the two have long cohabited, but Zica has never afflicted as many people as seriously as it is doing in Brazil. The fact that the range for zica’s vectors overlaps the aedes aegypti range – and  that there’s a GM mosquito test going on within that vast territory – suggest that the presence of the GM mosquitos and the outbreak of zica are probably coincidental. Especially since the date of release of the GM insects is given as 2015 – hardly sufficient time to breed and spread zica so far.

Zica Map
Zica Map

There’s always a chance that an Oxitec mosquito is to blame, but here’s a persuasive article suggesting that a chemical is to blame and Zica is not the culprit:

Argentine and Brazilian doctors name larvicide as potential cause of microcephaly:

report from the Argentine doctors’ organisation, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns,[1] challenges the theory that the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil is the cause of the increase in the birth defect microcephaly among newborns.   The increase in this birth defect, in which the baby is born with an abnormally small head and often has brain damage, was quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

However, according to the Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, the Ministry failed to recognise that in the area where most sick people live, a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was introduced into the drinking water supply in 2014. This poison, Pyriproxyfen, is used in a State-controlled programme aimed at eradicating disease-carrying mosquitoes.  The Physicians added that the Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese “strategic partner” of Monsanto.

Pyriproxyfen is a growth inhibitor of mosquito larvae, which alters the development process from larva to pupa to adult, thus generating malformations in developing mosquitoes and killing or disabling them. It acts as an insect juvenile hormone or juvenoid, and has the effect of inhibiting the development of adult insect characteristics (for example, wings and mature external genitalia) and reproductive development. It is an endocrine disruptor and is teratogenic (causes birth defects), according to the Physicians.The Physicians commented: “Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added Pyriproxyfen to drinking water are not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on the Zika virus for this damage.” Read more here….

Fighting Zika – Not The Virus Itself – Might Have Caused Birth Defects

June 26, 2016

The media said that the mosquito borne Zika virus is likely causing microcephaly as well as dozens of other illnesses. They also claimed that insecticides were not related to the development disorder. They seem to have been wrong on both cases.

Since December 2015 U.S. media ran a panic campaign round the Zika virus. That virus was said to cause many bad things including microcephaly, a development distortion of the head  of unborn babies, if the mother was infected with Zika during pregnancy.

After looking into the issue and the available data I concluded that: The Zika Virus Is Harmless:

The virus is long known, harmless and the main current scare, that the virus damages unborn children, is based on uncorroborated and likely false information.

There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

As this is all well known or easy to find out why do the media create this sensation?

By March the media attributed all known human ills to Zika though every headline doing so included a telltale caveat may. I mocked these in Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain

[E]ven while Zika is known to be less harmful than an average flue, one headline after the other tries to create the impression that it is some really awful, new bug that may be responsible for about any ailment. That it may spread like wildfire and may have other terrible consequences. May, as in ‘the sky may fall’, is indeed the most operative word here.

There followed a collection of 35 recent “Zika may cause …” headlines.

Meanwhile doctors in the Zika affected areas in Brazil pointed out that the real cause of somewhat increased microcephaly in the region was probably the insecticide pyriproxyfen, used to kill mosquito larvae in drinking water:

The Brazilian doctors noted that the areas of northeast Brazil that had witnessed the greatest number of microcephaly cases match with areas where pyriproxyfen is added to drinking water in an effort to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Pyriproxyfen is reported to cause malformations in mosquito larvae, and has been added to drinking water in the region for the past 18 months.

Pyriproxyfen is produced by a Sumitomo Chemical – an important Japanese poison giant. It was therefore unsurprising that the New York Times and others called the doctors report a “conspiracy theory” and trotted out some “experts” to debunk it.

But facts are facts and as these come to the fore the embarrassed media will now likely stay silent.

The New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge just published a new study that falsifies the assumed link between Zika and microcephaly. Science Daily reports:

In Brazil, the microcephaly rate soared with more than 1,500 confirmed cases. But in Colombia, a recent study of nearly 12,000 pregnant women infected with Zika found zero microcephaly cases. If Zika is to blame for microcephaly, where are the missing cases? Perhaps there is another reason for the epidemic in Brazil.

Well, maybe those doctors on the ground in Brazil knew what they were talking about. The scientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute also researched the pyriproxyfen thesis. They found.. Read more..

Then there’s this article from Bloomberg:

Genetically modified mosquitoes that would help fight the Zika virus are getting urgent attention from U.S. regulators as global health officials raise alarms about the pathogen’s spread. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the final stages of reviewing an application from Intrexon Corp.’s Oxitec unit to conduct a field trial in the Florida Keys, Oxitec Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said in a phone interview. Parry wasn’t able to provide further details on the timing of an FDA decision.
Oxitec genetically modifies the males in a breed of mosquito known as Aedes aegypti — responsible for transmitting Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever — so that their offspring die young. The Zika virus has been spreading “explosively” in South and Central America, the World Health Organization said Thursday. Developing a vaccine could take years, drugmakers and health experts have cautioned.

Here’s the background: Oxitec, an American-owned British company, has been working to develop a genetically modified mosquito in hopes of controlling dengue outbreaks on a broad scale. They breed and release millions of modified insects in populated areas where dengue is endemic. The story below,

 

In 2015 Oxitec proudly announced  that the mosquitos they’d genetically modified – which they call ‘friendly Aedes aegypti’ – had decimated the local mosquito population in a field trial in Juazeiro, Brazil by 95%. New dengue cases were way below the modelled threshold for epidemic disease transmission.

Dengue Zika juazeiro map
Dengue Zika juazeiro map

Here’s a map showing where the deformed babies are being born:

dengue zika brazil
dengue zika brazil

Zika was first confirmed in Brazil in May, 2015, but had been seen in other nations before. But Zika in Brazil does not seem to behave like the Zika they were familiar with.

Questions

  1. Why didn’t zika cause an epidemic of birth defects in any other country?
  2. How would you miss a tenfold increase in children born with most of their brain missing?
  3. Could the Zika epidemic be linked to genetically modified mosquitoes?

Oxitec released a strain of male mosquitoes in Juazeiro which create larvae that normally die in the absence of antibiotics. This is supposed to help decimate wild mosquito populations when these males are released in the wild. But Oxitec estimates 3-4% of the larvae survive to adulthood in the absence of the tetracycline antibiotic. These larvae should then be free to go on and reproduce and pass on their genes. In fact, they may be the only ones that are passing on their genes in places that have their wild mosquito population decimated by these experiments. Here are some questions whose answers we’ll post as they come in:

What is the effect on these mosquitoes that grow up with a mutilated genome?

Will the genetic modification introduce a fitness cost?

Should they have greater difficulty surviving?

What do we know about Oxitec’s mosquitoes?

Has sufficient research been done on how a genetically mutilated mosquito copes with viral infections?

Could Oxitec’s mosquito be more susceptible to certain pathogens?

Could it pass those pathogens onto humans?

Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s the Malaysian Government’s Biosafety assessment of the Oxitec experiment. And here’s news of the first Zica lab test, developed in Germany.

Dengue, Chinese and Western Medicine

What’s the Connection Between Dengue, Chinese and Western Medicine?

Dengue, Chinese and Western medicine are complementary in the treatment of dengue. Western medicine intervenes heroically when things go bad but its prescriptions have nothing to do with health: they designed to make money by suppressing our symptoms. In so doing, Western medicine has become the leading cause of death in America (and, I suspect, other developed countries, too).
People are, indeed, living longer, but our gains in longevity are unrelated to our medical system: public health policies have been the longevity driver. Does it make sense to call Western medicine effective? A resounding ‘yes!’ if we’re talking about surgery. Otherwise, we’d be better off adopting good dietary and exercise regimes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, by contrast, is non-interventional by its philosophy (lots of Daoism in there), and that makes it difficult for Westerners to understand: if TCM doctors don’t intervene, how can TCM be effective?
The answer lies in what TCM is trying to accomplish: TCM is a supportive regime of herbs and physical therapy that strengthens organs and systems to bring them back into balance (“harmony”). TCM advocates maintaining that psychophysical balance through a seasonally-appropriate diet and age-appropriate exercise.
TCM has been practiced continuously for at least 3,000 years and is part of the Chinese cultural makeup: Chinese have been using it since the time of the Yellow Emperor so it’s literally part of every meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – today. And know to change diets with seasons and they know who to talk to if their energy seems flat: their TCM practitioner, who will usually prescribe a dietary supplement – herbs or meal ingredients – to rebalance the system.
Have you noticed the rather relaxed Taichi exercise workouts that Chinese love to perform in the mornings? Those are part of what we can broadly call TCM, too. Their role is to rebalance the body’s energies from toe to crown and left to right.
But to us Westerners, for whom ‘balance’ and ‘harmony’ mean little, TCM may seem ineffectual. To them I say, go visit any Chinese town, sit outside a tea house and merely observe the level of energy that Chinese people are able to (cheerfully) maintain, hour after hour. That’s what TCM‘ supportive regime sustains.
So the two cultures have approached the same problem, health, from diametrically different directions. Both work, both are ineffectual in some areas, and both are just beginning to get to know each other.
What does this have to do with Dengue, you ask? Well it turns out that dengue was discovered by Chinese TCM practitioners 800 years ago and they’ve been refining their treatment of it since that day. Today, when a dengue sufferer shows up, they know exactly what to do: rebalance and tonify the liver, which takes a terrible beating from both the dengue virus and the painkillers we instinctively reach for when that splitting headache starts.
Instead of suffering for months (even years in some cases), a visit to your TCM doctor will reward you hugely. Get some herbs (don’t waste time on acupuncture for dengue) and follow her instructions. In no time you’ll be back on your feet and both you and your liver will be feeling fine!
  • Researchers Discover Innate Virus-killing Power in Mammals – October 10, 2013: Findings by UC Riverside’s Shou-Wei Ding could help create vaccines against deadly infections, including SARS, West Nile, dengue, Hepatitis C and influenza. … The China native was partly acting on a hunch that started when he was a graduate student at the Australia National University in the late 1980s. …. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center.
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