Arquivo da tag: Saúde pública

El Niño history raises fear of cholera outbreak (SciDev.Net)

10/03/16

María Elena Hurtado

Summary:

  • El Niño may carry disease-causing Vibrio bacteria across Pacific
  • Previous events linked to cases of diarrhoea and cholera
  • Current El Niño developing similarly to 1977 one when diarrhoea reached Peru

   

The ongoing El Niño event may be spreading cholera and other diseases caused by Vibrio bacteria from Asia to South America, researchers suggest.

This is because the bacteria, which are typically found in salty water, could ‘piggyback’ on zooplankton that travel to Peru and Chile with the warm easterly and southerly Pacific currents associated with El Niño, according to a comment published in Nature Microbiology last month.

Vibrio bacteria cause severe diarrhoea when people eat raw, contaminated molluscs such as oysters, clams and mussels. Such outbreaks have been linked to previous El Niño episodes.

The ongoing El Niño — dubbed El Niño Godzilla because of its intensity — may be the strongest on record. It is developing similarly to an episode in 1977, during which a diarrhoea epidemic broke out in Peru. In that year, Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria caused an estimated 10,000 cases of severe gastroenteritis along the South American coastline.

In 1997, another strong El Niño year, the Vibrio parahaemolyticus strain of the bacteria, which had emerged in India, plagued the South American coast.

“The emergence of cases correlated with southward dissemination of El Niño water during the 1997 event,” says Jaime Martinez-Urtaza, a biologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, and a coauthor of the article.

In terms of cholera, South America had been free of the disease for almost a century — until it reemerged in the early 1990s. Within weeks, cholera spread across South and Central America, going on to cause more than a million cases and 10,000 deaths by 1994.

Martinez-Urtaza says the cholera outbreak “coincided in both time and space with a significant El Niño event in late 1991 and early 1992”.

Ronnie Gavilán, a researcher at Peru’s National Institute of Health, says there is other evidence for El Niño’s influence on Vibrio bacteria in the Americas. He points out that, during warm El Niño events, Vibrioinfections continue to spread in the cold winter months, when they usually only occur in hot summers.

The current El Niño has not yet led to a Vibrio outbreak, but health authorities in Chile and Peru are closely monitoring water quality near the coast.

The delay could be “because the pathogens that may have arrived during the summer season may show up years later”, says Romilio Orellana, a biochemist at the University of Chile.

References

Jaime Martinez-Urtaza and others Is El Niño a long-distance corridor for waterborne disease? (Nature Microbiology, 24 February 2016)

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Argentine and Brazilian doctors suspect mosquito insecticide as cause of microcephaly (The Ecologist)

Claire Robinson / GMWatch

10th February 2016

With the proposed connection between the Zika virus and Brazil’s outbreak of microcephaly in new born babies looking increasingly tenuous, Latin American doctors are proposing another possible cause: Pyriproxyfen, a pesticide used in Brazil since 2014 to arrest the development of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks. Might the ‘cure’ in fact be the poison?

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 direct blame on the Zika virus.

The World Health Organization view that the microcephaly outbreak in Brazil’s impoverished northeast is caused by the Zika virus has, so far, received few challenges.

Brazil’s Health Minister, Marcelo Castro, has gone so far as to say that he has “100% certainty”that there is a link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect in which babies are born with small heads.

The view is widely supported in the medical community worldwide, including by the US’s influential Center for Disease Control. But there is no hard evidence of the link, rather a mixture of epidemiological indications and circumstantial evidence.

One of the key scientific papers, by A S Oliveira Melo et al in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, found Zika virus in the amniotic fluids and other tissues of the affected babies and their mothers. But only two women were examined, far too small a number to establish a statistically significant link.

The New York Times also reported on 3rd February on the outcome of analyses by Brazil’s Health Ministry: “Of the cases examined so far, 404 have been confirmed as having microcephaly. Only 17 of them tested positive for the Zika virus. But the government and many researchers say that number may be largely irrelevant, because their tests would find the presence of the virus in only a tiny percentage of cases.”

And last weekend, the most powerful indicator yet that the microcephaly may have another cause altogether was announced by Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, as reported by the Washington Post. Colombian public health officials, stated Santos, have so far diagnosed 3,177 pregnant women with the Zika virus- but in no case had microcephaly been observed in the foetus.

Argentine doctors: it’s the insecticide

Now a new report has been published by the Argentine doctors’ organisation, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), [1] which not only challenges the theory that the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil is the cause of the increase in microcephaly among newborns, but proposes an alternative explanation.

According to PCST, 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 pesticide, Pyriproxyfen, is used in a state-controlled programme aimed at eradicating disease-carrying mosquitos. The Physicians added that the Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese ‘strategic partner‘ of Monsanto. – a company they have learned to distrust due to the vast volume of the company’s pesticides sprayed onto Argentina’s cropland.

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.

The chemical has a relatively low risk profile as shown by its WHO listing, with low acute toxicity. Tests carried out in a variety of animals by Sumitomo found that it was not a teratogen (did not cause birth defects) in the mammals it was tested on. However this cannot be taken as a completely reliable indicator of its effects in humans – especially in the face of opposing evidence.

The PCST 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.”

They also noted that Zika has traditionally been held to be a relatively benign disease that has never before been associated with birth defects, even in areas where it infects 75% of the population.

Brazilian doctors also suspect pyriproxyfen

Pyriproxyfen is a relatively new introduction to the Brazilian environment; the microcephaly increase is a relatively new phenomenon. So the larvicide seems a plausible causative factor in microcephaly – far more so than GM mosquitos, which some have blamed for the Zika epidemic and thus for the birth defects.

The PCST report, which also addresses the Dengue fever epidemic in Brazil, concurs with the findings of a separate report on the Zika outbreak by the Brazilian doctors’ and public health researchers’ organisation, Abrasco. [2]

Abrasco also names Pyriproxyfen as a possible cause of the microcephaly. It condemns the strategy of chemical control of Zika-carrying mosquitoes, which it says is contaminating the environment as well as people and is not decreasing the numbers of mosquitoes.

Instead Abrasco suggests that this strategy is in fact driven by the commercial interests of the chemical industry, which it says is deeply integrated into the Latin American ministries of health, as well as the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organisation.

Abrasco names the British GM insect company Oxitec as part of the corporate lobby that is distorting the facts about Zika to suit its own profit-making agenda. Oxitec sells GM mosquitoes engineered for sterility and markets them as a disease-combatting product – a strategy condemned by the Argentine Physicians as “a total failure, except for the company supplying mosquitoes.”

Both the Brazilian and Argentine doctors’ and researchers’ associations agree that poverty is a key neglected factor in the Zika epidemic. Abrasco condemned the Brazilian government for its “deliberate concealment” of economic and social causes: “In Argentina and across America the poorest populations with the least access to sanitation and safe water suffer most from the outbreak.” PCST agrees, stating, “The basis of the progress of the disease lies in inequality and poverty.”

Abrasco adds that the disease is closely linked to environmental degradation: floods caused by logging and the massive use of herbicides on (GM) herbicide-tolerant soy crops – in short, “the impacts of extractive industries.”

The notion that environmental degradation may a factor in the spread of Zika finds backing in the view of Dino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist. Martins said that “the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis” is caused by “a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.”

Community-based actions

The Argentine Physicians believe that the best defence against Zika is “community-based actions”. An example of such actions is featured in a BBC News report on the Dengue virus in El Salvador.

A favourite breeding place for disease-carrying mosquitoes is storage containers of standing water. El Salvadorians have started keeping fish in the water containers, and the fish eat the mosquito larvae. Dengue has vanished along with the mosquitoes that transmit the disease. And so far, the locals don’t have any Zika cases either.

Simple yet effective programmes like this are in danger of being neglected in Brazil in favour of the corporate-backed programmes of pesticide spraying and releasing GM mosquitoes. The latter is completely unproven and the former may be causing far more serious harm than the mosquitoes that are being targeted.

 


 

Claire Robinson is an editor at GMWatch.

This article was originally published by GMWatch. This version includes additional reporting by The Ecologist.

Notes

1. ‘Report from Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns regarding Dengue-Zika, microcephaly, and mass-spraying with chemical poisons‘. 2016. Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns.

2. ‘Nota técnica e carta aberta à população: Microcefalia e doenças vetoriais relacionadas ao Aedes aegypti: os perigos das abordagens com larvicidas e nebulização química – fumacê‘. January 2016. GT Salud y Ambiente. Asociación Brasileña de Salud Colectiva. ABRASCO.

 

OMS declara vírus zica e microcefalia ‘emergência pública internacional’ (JC)

Comitê de Emergência se reuniu pela primeira vez nesta segunda-feira (1) para reagir ao aumento do número de casos de desordens neurológicas e malformações congênitas, sobretudo nas Américas. País mais atingido é o Brasil

A Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) realizou nesta segunda-feira (1) a primeira reunião do Comité de Emergência que trata dos recentes casos de microcefalia e outros distúrbios neurológicos em áreas afetadas pelo vírus zika, sobretudo nas Américas. O país mais atingido é o Brasil.

O Secretariado da OMS informou ao Comitê sobre a situação dos casos de microcefalia e Síndrome de Guillain-Barré, circunstancialmente associados à transmissão do vírus zika. O Comitê foi recebeu informações sobre a história do vírus zika, sua extensão, apresentação clínica e epidemiologia.

As representações do Brasil, França, Estados Unidos e El Salvador apresentaram as primeiras informações sobre uma potencial associação entre a microcefalia – bem como outros distúrbios neurológicos – e a doença provocada pelo vírus zika.

Segundo o comunicado da OMS, os especialistas reunidos em Genebra concordam que uma relação causal entre a infecção do zika durante a gravidez e microcefalia é “fortemente suspeita”, embora ainda não comprovada cientificamente.

A falta de vacinas e testes de um diagnóstico rápido e confiável, bem como a ausência de imunidade da população em países recém-afetados, foram citadas como novos motivos de preocupação.

Para a Comissão da OMS, o recente conjunto de casos microcefalia e outros distúrbios neurológicos relatados no Brasil, logo após ocorrências semelhantes na Polinésia Francesa, em 2014, constituem uma “emergência de saúde pública de importância internacional”, condição conhecida também pela sua sigla em inglês (PHEIC).

Em uma decisão aceita pela diretora-geral da OMS, Margaret Chan, o Comitê da agência da ONU busca assim coordenar uma resposta global de modo a minimizar a ameaça nos países afetados e reduzir o risco de propagação internacional.

Recomendações à diretora-geral da OMS

O Comitê, em resposta às informações fornecidas, fez recomendações à OMS sobre medidas a serem tomadas.

Em relação aos distúrbios neurológicos e microcefalia, o Comitê sugere que a vigilância de microcefalia e da Síndrome de Guillain-Barré deve ser padronizada e melhorada, particularmente em áreas conhecidas de transmissão do vírus zika, bem como em áreas de risco de transmissão.

O Comitê também recomendou que seja intensificada a investigação acerca da etiologia – a causa das doenças – nos novos focos onde ocorrem os casos de distúrbios neurológicos e de microcefalia, para determinar se existe uma relação causal entre o vírus zika e outros fatores desconhecidos.

Como estes grupos se situam em áreas recém-infectadas com o vírus zika, de acordo com as boas práticas de saúde pública e na ausência de outra explicação para esses agrupamentos, o Comitê destaca a importância de “medidas agressivas” para reduzir a infecção com o vírus zika, especialmente entre as mulheres grávidas e mulheres em idade fértil.

Como medida de precaução, o Comitê fez as seguintes recomendações adicionais:

Transmissão do vírus zika

A vigilância para infecção pelo vírus zika deve ser reforçada, com a divulgação de definições de casos padrão e diagnósticos para áreas de risco.

O desenvolvimento de novos diagnósticos de infecção pelo vírus zika devem ser priorizados para facilitar as medidas de vigilância e de controle.

A comunicação de risco deve ser reforçada em países com transmissão do vírus zika para responder às preocupações da população, reforçar o envolvimento da comunidade, melhorar a comunicação e assegurar a aplicação de controle de vetores e medidas de proteção individual.

Medidas de controle de vetores e medidas de proteção individual adequada devem ser agressivamente promovidas e implementadas para reduzir o risco de exposição ao vírus zika.

Atenção deve ser dada para assegurar que as mulheres em idade fértil e mulheres grávidas em especial tenham as informações e materiais necessários para reduzir o risco de exposição.

As mulheres grávidas que tenham sido expostas ao vírus zika devem ser aconselhadas e acompanhadas por resultados do nascimento com base na melhor informação disponível e práticas e políticas nacionais.

Medidas de longo prazo

Esforços de pesquisa e desenvolvimento apropriados devem ser intensificados para vacinas, terapias e diagnósticos do vírus zika.

Em áreas conhecidas de transmissão do vírus zika, os serviços de saúde devem estar preparados para o aumento potencial de síndromes neurológicas e/ou malformações congênitas.

Medidas de viagem

Não deve haver restrições a viagens ou ao comércio com países, regiões e/ou territórios onde esteja ocorrendo a transmissão do vírus zika.

Viajantes para áreas com transmissão do vírus zika devem receber informações atualizadas sobre os potenciais riscos e medidas adequadas para reduzir a possibilidade de exposição a picadas do mosquito.

Recomendações da OMS sobre padrões em matéria de desinfestação de aeronaves e aeroportos devem ser implementadas.

Compartilhamento de dados

As autoridades nacionais devem garantir a comunicação e o compartilhamento ágeis e em tempo de informações relevantes de importância para a saúde pública, para esta Emergência.

Dados clínicos, virológicos e epidemiológicos, relacionados com o aumento das taxas de microcefalia e/ou Síndrome de Guillain-Barré, ou com a transmissão do vírus zika, devem ser rapidamente compartilhados com a OMS para facilitar a compreensão internacional destes eventos, para orientar o apoio internacional para os esforços de controle, priorizando a pesquisa e desenvolvimento de produtos.

Acompanhe:

http://who.int/emergencies/zika-virus

http://new.paho.org/bra

http://combateaedes.saude.gov.br

http://bit.ly/zikaoms

ONU

 

Leia também:

Agência Brasil – Notificação de casos de Zika passa a ser obrigatória no Brasil

The controversy about the relationship between GM mosquitoes and the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil

 

Pandora’s box: how GM mosquitos could have caused Brazil’s microcephaly disaster (The Ecologist)

Oliver Tickell

1st February 2016

Aedes Aegypti mosquito feeding on human blood. Photo: James Gathany via jentavery on Flickr (CC BY).

Aedes Aegypti mosquito feeding on human blood. This is the species that transmits Zika, and that was genetically engineered by Oxitec using the piggyBac transposon. Photo: James Gathany via jentavery on Flickr (CC BY).

In Brazil’s microcephaly epidemic, one vital question remains unanswered: how did the Zika virus suddenly learn how to disrupt the development of human embryos? The answer may lie in a sequence of ‘jumping DNA’ used to engineer the virus’s mosquito vector – and released into the wild four years ago in the precise area of Brazil where the microcephaly crisis is most acute.

These ‘promiscuous’ transposons have found special favour with genetic engineers, whose goal is to create ‘universal’ systems for transferring genes into any and every species on earth. Almost none of the geneticists has considered the hazards involved.

Since August 2015, a large number of babies in Northeast Brazil have been born with very small heads, a condition known as microcephaly, and with other serious malformations. 4,180 suspected cases have been reported.

Epidemiologists have found a convincing correlation between the incidence of the natal deformities and maternal infections with the Zika virus, first discovered in Uganda’s Zika Valley in 1947, which normally produces non-serious illness.

The correlation has been evidenced through the geographical distrubution of Zika infections and the wave of deformities. Zika virus has also been detected in the amniotic fluids and other tissues of the affected babies and their mothers.

This latter finding was recently reported by AS Oliveira Melo et al in a scientific paperpublished in the journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology, which noted evidence of intra-uterine infection. They also warn:

“As with other intrauterine infections, it is possible that the reported cases of microcephaly represent only the more severely affected children and that newborns with less severe disease, affecting not only the brain but also other organs, have not yet been diagnosed.”

The Brazilian Health Minister, Marcelo Castro, says he has “100% certainty” that there is a link between Zika and microcephaly. His view is supported by the medical community worldwide, including by the US Center for Disease Control.

Oliveira Melo et al draw attention to a mystery that lies at the heart of the affair: “It is difficult to explain why there have been no fetal cases of Zika virus infection reported until now but this may be due to the underreporting of cases, possible early acquisition of immunity in endemic areas or due to the rarity of the disease until now.

“As genomic changes in the virus have been reported, the possibility of a new, more virulent, strain needs to be considered. Until more cases are diagnosed and histopathological proof is obtained, the possibility of other etiologies cannot be ruled out.”

And this is the key question: how – if indeed Zika really is the problem, as appears likely – did this relatively innocuous virus acquire the ability to produce these terrible malformations in unborn human babies?

Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes

An excellent article by Claire Bernish published last week on AntiMedia draws attention to an interesting aspect of the matter which has escaped mainstream media attention: the correlation between the incidence of Zika and the area of release of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitos engineered for male insterility (see maps, above right).

The purpose of the release was to see if it controlled population of the mosquitos, which are the vector of Dengue fever, a potentially lethal disease. The same species also transmits the Zika virus.

The releases took in 2011 and 2012 in the Itaberaba suburb of the city of Juazeiro, Bahia, Northeast Brazil, about 500 km west of ther coastal city of Recife. The experiment was written up in July 2015 in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases in a paper titled ‘Suppression of a Field Population of Aedes aegypti in Brazil by Sustained Release of Transgenic Male Mosquitoes’ by Danilo O. Carvalho et al.

An initial ‘rangefinder of 30,000 GM mosquitos per week took place between 19th May and 29th June 2011, followed by a much larger release of 540,000 per week in early 2012, ending on 11th February.

At the end of it the scientists claimed “effective control of a wild population of Ae. aegypti by sustained releases of OX513A male Ae. aegypti. We diminished Ae. aegypti population by 95% (95% CI: 92.2%-97.5%) based on adult trap data and 78% (95% CI: 70.5%-84.8%) based on ovitrap indices compared to the adjacent no-release control area.”

So what’s to worry about?

    The idea of the Oxitec mosquitoes is simple enough: the males produce non-viable offspring which all die. So the GM mosqitoes are ‘self-extinguishing’ and the altered genes cannot survive in the wild population. All very clever, and nothing to worry about!

    But in fact, it’s not so simple. In 2010 geneticist Ricarda Steinbrecher wrote to the biosafety regulator in Malaysia – also considering a release of the Oxitec mosquitoes – with a number of safety concerns, pointing out the 2007 finding by Phuc et al that 3-4% of the first generation mosquitos actually survive.

    The genetic engineerig method employed by Oxitec allows the popular antibiotic tetracycline to be used to repress the lethality during breeding. But as a side-effect, the lethality is also reduced by the presence of tetracycline in the environment; and as Bernish points out, Brazil is among the world’s biggest users of anti-microbials including tetracycline in its commercial farming sector:

    “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.”

    She then quotes the leaked Oxitec paper: “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.”

    So in other words, there is every possibility for Oxitec’s modified genes to persist in wild populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitos, especially in the environmental presence of tetracycline which is widely present in sewage, septic tanks, contaminated water sources and farm runoff.

    ‘Promiscuous’ jumping genes

    On the face of it, there is no obvious way in which the spread of Oxitec’s GM mosquitos into the wild could have anything to do with Brazil’s wave of micrcophaly. Is there?

    Actually, yes. The problem may arise from the use of the ‘transposon’ (‘jumping’ sequence of DNA used in the genetic engineering process to introduce the new genes into the target organism). There are several such DNA sequences in use, and one of the most popular is known as known as piggyBac.

    As a 2001 review article by Dr Mae Wan Ho shows, piggyBac is notoriously active, inserting itself into genes way beyond its intended target: “These ‘promiscuous’ transposons have found special favour with genetic engineers, whose goal is to create ‘universal’ systems for transferring genes into any and every species on earth. Almost none of the geneticists has considered the hazards involved …

    “It would seem obvious that integrated transposon vectors may easily jump out again, to another site in the same genome, or to the genome of unrelated species. There are already signs of that in the transposon, piggyBac, used in the GM bollworms to be released by the USDA this summer.

    The piggyBac transposon was discovered in cell cultures of the moth Trichopulsia, the cabbage looper, where it caused high rates of mutations in the baculovirus infecting the cells by jumping into its genes … This transposon was later found to be active in a wide range of species, including the fruitfly Drosophila, the mosquito transmitting yellow fever, Aedes aegypti, the medfly, Ceratitis capitata, and the original host, the cabbage looper.

    “The piggyBac vector gave high frequencies of transpositions, 37 times higher than mariner and nearly four times higher than Hirmar.”

    In a later 2014 report Dr Mae Wan Ho returned to the theme with additional detail and fresh scientific evidence (please refer to her original article for references): “The piggyBac transposon was discovered in cell cultures of the moth Trichopulsia, the cabbage looper, where it caused high rates of mutations in the baculovirus infecting the cells by jumping into its genes …

    “There is also evidence that the disabled piggyBac vector carrying the transgene, even when stripped down to the bare minimum of the border repeats, was nevertheless able to replicate and spread, because the transposase enzyme enabling the piggyBac inserts to move can be provided by transposons present in all genomes.

    “The main reason initially for using transposons as vectors in insect control was precisely because they can spread the transgenes rapidly by ‘non-Mendelian’ means within a population, i.e., by replicating copies and jumping into genomes, thereby ‘driving’ the trait through the insect population. However, the scientists involved neglected the fact that the transposons could also jump into the genomes of the mammalian hosts including human beings …

    “In spite of instability and resulting genotoxicity, the piggyBac transposon has been used extensively also in human gene therapy. Several human cell lines have been transformed, even primary human T cells using piggyBac. These findings leave us little doubt that the transposon-borne transgenes in the transgenic mosquito can transfer horizontally to human cells. The piggyBac transposon was found to induce genome wide insertionmutations disrupting many gene functions.” 

    Has the GM nightmare finally come true?

    So down to the key question: was the Oxitec’s GM Aedes aegypti male-sterile mosquito released in Juazeiro engineered with the piggyBac transposon? Yes, it was. And that creates a highly significant possibility: that Oxitec’s release of its GM mosquitos led directly to the development of Brazil’s microcephaly epidemic through the following mechanism:

    1. Many of the millions of Oxitec GM mosquitos released in Juazeiro in 2011/2012 survive, assisted, but not dependent on, the presence of tetracycline in the environment.

    2. These mosquitos interbreed with with the wild population and their novel genes become widespread.

    3. The promiscuous piggyBac transposon now present in the local Aedes aegyptipopulation takes the opportunity to jump into the Zika virus, probably on numerous occasions.

    4. In the process certain mutated strains of Zika acquire a selective advantage, making them more virulent and giving them an enhanced ability to enter and disrupt human DNA.

    5. One way in which this manifests is by disrupting a key stage in the development of human embryos in the womb, causing microcephaly and the other reported deformations. Note that as Melo Oliveira et al warn, there are almost certainly other manifestations that have not yet been detected.

    6. It may be that the piggyBac transposon has itself entered the DNA of babies exposed in utero to the modified Zika virus. Indeed, this may form part of the mechanism by which embryonic development is disrupted.

    In the latter case, one implication is that the action of the gene could be blocked by giving pregnant women tetracycline in order to block its activity. The chances of success are probably low, but it has to be worth trying.

    No further releases of GM insects!

    While I am certainly not claiming that this is what actually took place, it is at least a credible hypothesis, and moreover a highly testable one. Nothing would be easier for genetic engineers than to test amniotic fluids, babies’ blood, wild Aedes mosquitos and the Zika virus itself for the presence of the piggyBac transposon, using well established and highly sensitive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) techniques.

    If this proves to be the case, those urging caution on the release of GMOs generally, and transgenic insects bearing promiscuous transposons in particular, will have been proved right on all counts.

    But most important, such experiments, and any deployment of similar GM insects, must be immediately halted until the possibilities outlined above can be safely ruled out. There are plans, for example, to release similarly modified Anopheles mosquitos as an anti-malarial measure.

    There are also calls for even more of the Oxitec Aedes aegypti mosquitos to be released in order to halt the transmission of the Zika virus. If that were to take place, it could give rise to numerous new mutations of the virus with the potential to cause even more damage to the human genome, that we can, at this stage, only guess at.

    Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.


     

    No, GM Mosquitoes Didn’t Start The Zika Outbreak (Discovery)

    By Christie Wilcox | January 31, 2016 9:56 pm

    ZIka_conspiracy_theory_cat

    A new ridiculous rumor is spreading around the internets. According to conspiracy theorists, the recent outbreak of Zika can be blamed on the British biotech company Oxitec, which some are saying even intentionally caused the disease as a form of ethnic cleansing or population control. The articles all cite a lone Redditor who proposed the connection on January 25th to the Conspiracy subreddit. “There are no biological free lunches,” says one commenter on the idea. “Releasing genetically altered species into the environment could have disastrous consequences” another added. “Maybe that’s what some entities want to happen…?”

    For some reason, it’s been one of those months where random nonsense suddenly hits mainstream. Here are the facts: there’s no evidence whatsoever to support this conspiracy theory, or any of the other bizarre, anti-science claims that have popped up in the past few weeks. So let’s stop all of this right here, right now: The Earth is round, not flat (and it’s definitely not hollow). Last year was the hottest year on record, and climate change is really happening (so please just stop, Mr. Cruz). And FFS, genetically modified mosquitoes didn’t start the Zika outbreak. 

    Background on Zika

    The Zika virus is a flavivirus closely related to notorious pathogens including dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in the genus Aedes, especially A. aegypti, which is a known vector for many of Zika’s relatives. Symptoms of the infection appear three to twelve days post bite. Most people are asymptomatic, which means they show no signs of infection. The vast majority of those who do show signs of infection report fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. After a week or less, the symptoms tend to go away on their own. Serious complications have occurred, but they have been extremely rare.

    The Zika virus isn’t new. It was first isolated in 1947 from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest in Uganda, hence the pathogen’s name. The first human cases were confirmed in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952, and by 1968, the virus had spread to Nigeria. But since then, the virus has found its way out of Africa. The first major outbreak occurred on the island of Yap in Micronesia for 13 weeks 2007, during which 185 Zika cases were suspected (49 of those were confirmed, with another 59 considered probable). Then, in October 2013, an outbreak began in French Polynesia; around 10,000 cases were reported, less than 100 of which presented with severe neurological or autoimmune complications. One confirmed case of autochthonous transmission occurred in Chile in 2014, which means a person was infected while they were in Chile rather than somewhere else. Cases were also reported that year from several Pacific Islands. The virus was detected in Chile until June 2014, but then it seemed to disappear.

    Fast forward to May 2015, when the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. Since then, several thousand suspected cases of the disease and a previously unknown complication—a kind of birth defect known as microcephaly where the baby’s brain is abnormally small—have been reported from Brazil. (It’s important to note that while the connection between the virus and microcephaly is strongly suspected, the link has yet to be conclusively demonstrated.)

    Currently, there is no vaccine for Zika, though the recent rise in cases has spurred research efforts. Thus, preventing mosquito bites is the only prophylactic measure available.

    The recent spread of the virus has been described as “explosive”; Zika has now been detected in 25 countries and territories. The rising concern over both the number of cases and reports of serious complications has led the most affected areas in Brazil to declare a state of emergency, and on Monday, The World Health Organization’s Director-General will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus and the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations. At this emergency meeting, the committee will discuss mitigation strategies and decide whether the organization will officially declare the virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

    GM to the Rescue

    aedes_aegypti

    The mosquito to blame for the outbreak—Aedes aegypti—doesn’t belong in the Americas. It’s native to Africa, and was only introduced in the new world when Europeans began to explore the globe. In the 20th century, mosquito control programs nearly eradicated the unwelcome menace from the Americas (largely thanks to the use of the controversial pesticide DDT); as late as the mid 1970s, Brazil and 15 other nations were Aedes aegypti-free. But despite the successes, eradication efforts were halted, allowing the mosquito to regain its lost territory.

    The distribution of Aedes aegypti in the Americas in 1970 and 2002.

    Effective control measures are expensive and difficult to maintain, so at the tail end of the 20th century and into the 21st, scientists began to explore creative means of controlling mosquito populations, including the use of genetic modification. Oxitec’s mosquitoes are one of the most exciting technologies to have emerged from this period. Here’s how they work, as I described in a post almost exactly a year ago:

    While these mosquitoes are genetically modified, they aren’t “cross-bred with the herpes simplex virus and E. colibacteria” (that would be an interkingdom ménage à trois!)—and no, they cannot be “used to bite people and essentially make them immune to dengue fever and chikungunya” (they aren’t carrying a vaccine!). The mosquitoes that Oxitec have designed are what scientists call “autocidal” or possess a “dominant lethal genetic system,” which is mostly fancy wording for “they die all by themselves”. The males carry inserted DNA which causes the mosquitoes to depend upon a dietary supplement that is easy to provide in the lab, but not available in nature. When the so-called mutants breed with normal females, all of the offspring require the missing dietary supplement because the suicide genes passed on from the males are genetically dominantThus, the offspring die before they can become adults. The idea is, if you release enough such males in an area, then the females won’t have a choice but to mate with them. That will mean there will be few to no successful offspring in the next generation, and the population is effectively controlled.

    Male mosquitoes don’t bite people, so they cannot serve as transmission vectors for Zika or any other disease. As for fears that GM females will take over: less than 5% of all offspring survive in the laboratory, and as Glen Slade, director of Oxitec’s Brazilian branch notes, those are the best possible conditions for survival. “It is considered unlikely that the survival rate is anywhere near that high in the harsher field conditions since offspring reaching adulthood will have been weakened by the self-limiting gene,” he told me. And contrary to what the conspiracy theorists claim, scientists have shown that tetracycline in the environment doesn’t increase that survival rate.

    Brazil, a hotspot for dengue and other such diseases, is one of the countries where Oxitec is testing their mozzies—so far, everywhere that Oxitec’s mosquitoes have been released, the local populations have been suppressed by about 90%.

    Wrong Place, Wrong Time

    Now that we’ve covered the background on the situation, let’s dig into the conspiracy theory. We’ll start with the main argument laid out as evidence: that the Zika outbreak began in the same location at the same time as the first Oxitec release:

    Though it’s often said, it’s worth repeating: correlation doesn’t equal causation. If it did, then Nicholas Cage is to blame for people drowning (Why, Nick? WHY?). But even beyond that, there are bigger problems with this supposed correlation: even by those maps, the site of release is on the fringe of the Zika hotspot, not the center of it. Just look at the two overlaid:

    The epicenter of the outbreak and the release clearly don’t line up—the epicenter is on the coast rather than inland where the map points. Furthermore, the first confirmed cases weren’t reported in that area, but in the town of Camaçari, Bahia, which is—unsurprisingly—on the coast and several hundred kilometers from the release site indicated.

    But perhaps more importantly, the location on the map isn’t where the mosquitoes were released. That map points to Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará, which is a solid 300 km away from Juazeiro, Bahia—the actual site of the mosquito trial. That location is even more on the edge of the Zika-affected area:

    1: Juaziero de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juaziero, the actual location of Oxitec's release trial, about 300 km away.

    The mistake was made initially by the Redditor who proposed the conspiracy theory and has been propagated through lazy journalistic practices by every proponent since. Here’s a quick tip: if you’re basing your conspiracy theory on location coincidence, it’s probably a good idea to actually get the location right.

    They’re also wrong about the date. According to the D.C. Clothesline:

    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%.”

    However, GM mosquitoes weren’t first released in Juazeiro, Bahia (let alone Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará) in 2015. Instead, the announcement by Oxitec was of the published results of a trial that occurred in Juaziero between May 2011 and Sept 2012—a fact which is clearly stated in the methods and results of the paper that Oxitec was so excited to share.

    A new control effort employing Oxitec mosquitoes did begin in April 2015, but not in Juaziero, or any of the northeastern states of Brazil where the disease outbreak is occurring. As another press release from Oxitec states, the 2015 releases of their GM mosquitoes were in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil:

    Following approval by Brazil’s National Biosafety Committee (CTNBio) for releases throughout the country, Piracicaba’s CECAP/Eldorado district became the world’s first municipality to partner directly with Oxitec and in April 2015 started releasing its self-limiting mosquitoes whose offspring do not survive. By the end of the calendar year, results had already indicated a reduction in wild mosquito larvae by 82%. Oxitec’s efficacy trials across Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands all resulted in a greater than 90% suppression of the wild Ae. aegypti mosquito population–an unprecedented level of control.

    Based on the positive results achieved to date, the ‘Friendly Aedes aegypti Project’ in CECAP/Eldorado district covering 5,000 people has been extended for another year. Additionally, Oxitec and Piracicaba have signed a letter of intent to expand the project to an area of 35,000-60,000 residents. This geographic region includes the city’s center and was chosen due to the large flow of people commuting between it and surrounding neighborhoods which may contribute to the spread of infestations and infections.

    Piracicaba mosquito control results

     

    Piracicaba, for the record, is more than 1300 miles away from the Zika epicenter:

    TKTK

    So not only did the conspiracy theorists get the location of the first Brazil release wrong, they either got the date wrong, too, or got the location of the 2015 releases really, really off. Either way, the central argument that the release of GM mosquitoes by Oxitec coincides with the first cases of Zika virus simply doesn’t hold up.

    Scientists Speak Out

    As this ludicrous conspiracy theory has spread, so, too, has the scientific opposition to it. “Frankly, I’m a little sick of this kind of anti-science platform,” said vector ecologist Tanjim Hossain from the University of Miami, when I asked him what he thought. “This kind of fear mongering is not only irresponsible, but may very well be downright harmful to vulnerable populations from a global health perspective.”

    Despite the specious allusions made by proponents of the conspiracy, this is still not Jurassic Park, says Hossain.

    “We have a problem where ZIKV is spreading rapidly and is widely suspected of causing serious health issues,” he continued. “How do we solve this problem? An Integrated Vector Management (IVM) approach is key. We need to use all available tools, old and new, to combat the problem. GM mosquitoes are a fairly new tool in our arsenal. The way I see it, they have the potential to quickly reduce a local population of vector mosquitoes to near zero, and thereby can also reduce the risk of disease transmission. This kind of strategy could be particularly useful in a disease outbreak ‘hotspot’ because you could hypothetically stop the disease in its tracks so to speak.”

    Other scientists have shared similar sentiments. Alex Perkins, a biological science professor at Notre Dame, told Business Insider that rather than causing the outbreak, GM mosquitoes might be our best chance to fight it. “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.”

    Brazilian authorities couldn’t be happier with the results so far, and are eager to continue to fight these deadly mosquitoes by any means they can. “The initial project in CECAP/Eldorado district clearly showed that the ‘friendly Aedes aegypti solution’ made a big difference for the inhabitants of the area, helping to protect them from the mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya,” said Pedro Mello, secretary of health in Piracicaba. He notes that during the 2014/2015 dengue season, before the trial there began, there were 133 cases of dengue. “In 2015/2016, after the beginning of the Friendly Aedes aegypti Project, we had only one case.”

    It’s long past time to stop villainizing Oxitec’s mosquitoes for crimes they didn’t commit. Claire BernishThe Daily MFailMirror and everyone else who has spread these baseless accusations: I’m talking to you. The original post was in the Conspiracy subreddit—what more of a red flag for “this is wildly inaccurate bullsh*t” do you need? (After all, if this is a legit source, where are your reports on the new hidden messages in the $100 bill? or why the Illuminati wants people to believe in aliens?). It’s well known that large-scale conspiracy theories are mathematically challenged. Don’t just post whatever crap is spewed on the internet because you know it’ll get you a few clicks. It’s dishonest, dangerous, and, frankly, deplorable to treat nonsense as possible truth just to prey upon your audience’s very real fears of an emerging disease. You, with your complete lack of integrity, are maggots feeding on the decay of modern journalism, and I mean that with no disrespect to maggots.

     

    Brazil scientists releasing genetically modified mosquitoes (Kristv.com)

    Posted: May 01, 2015 7:48 AM BRT – Updated: May 01, 2015 7:48 AM BRT

    By Miranda Leah

    VIDEO

    More than 100-thousand genetically modified mosquitoes were released in Brazil, in part of an effort to battle the ongoing dengue epidemic.

    Oxitec, a global initiative focused on insect control, is responsible for the project in Sao Paulo.

    Oxitec scientists inject the male mosquitoes with a modified gene containing a protein known as TTA.

    When they produce offspring with the dengue-carrying female, the next generation will die before reaching adult phase.

    It claims this method is capable of suppressing the mosquito population in the area by 90-percent.

    Oxitec’s leader of field operations says similar results were seen in the Cayman Islands in 2009, and most recently in Panama.

    Sabesp admite que rodízio pode contaminar água (Estadão)

    Pedro Venceslau e Fabio Leite – O Estado de S. Paulo

    26 Fevereiro 2015 | 03h 00

    Diretor disse em CPI que problema não colocaria usuário em risco; empresa também afirmou que pressão está fora da norma

    SÃO PAULO – O risco de contaminação da água admitido nesta quarta-feira, 25, pelo diretor metropolitano da Companhia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo (Sabesp), Paulo Massato, em caso de rodízio oficial já é realidade em algumas regiões altas da Grande São Paulo. São locais onde a rede fica despressurizada após o fechamento manual dos registros na rua, conforme um alto dirigente da empresa admitiu ao Estado no início do mês.

    “Se implementado o rodízio, a rede fica despressurizada, principalmente em regiões de topografia acidentada, nos pontos em que a tubulação está em declive. Se o lençol freático está contaminado, isso aumenta o risco de contaminação (da água na rede)”, afirmou Massato, nesta quarta, durante sessão da CPI da Sabesp na Câmara Municipal.

    O resultado desse contágio, segundo ele, não colocaria a vida dos consumidores em risco, mas poderia causar disenteria, por exemplo. “Nós temos hoje medicina suficiente para minimizar risco de vida para a população. Uma disenteria pode ser mais grave ou menos grave, mas é um risco (implementar o rodízio) que nós queremos evitar ”, completou. Apesar do alerta, ele disse que a estatal poderia “descontaminar” rapidamente a água afetada.

    Hélvio Romero/Estadão

    ‘Estamos em uma situação de anormalidade. Nós não conseguiríamos abastecer 6 milhões de habitantes se mantivéssemos a normalidade’, disse Massato

    No início do mês, um dirigente da Sabesp admitiu ao Estado que em 40% da rede onde não há válvulas redutoras de pressão (VRPs) instaladas, o racionamento de água é feito por meio do fechamento manual, flagrado pela reportagem na Vila Brasilândia, zona norte da capital. Segundo ele, a manobra “não esvazia totalmente” a rede, mas “despressuriza pontos mais altos”.

    “A zona baixa fica com água. Se não houver consumo excessivo, a maior parte da rede fica com água. Acaba despressurizando zonas altas, isso acontece mesmo. Tanto é que quando abre (o registro) para encher de novo, as zonas mais altas e distantes acabam sofrendo mais, ficando mais tempo sem água”, afirmou.

    Para o engenheiro Antonio Giansante, professor de Engenharia Hídrica do Mackenzie, é grande o risco de contaminação em caso de fechamento da rede. “Em uma eventualidade de o tubo estar seco, pode ser que entre água de qualidade não controlada, em geral, contaminada por causa das redes coletoras de esgoto, para dentro da rede da Sabesp.”

    Segundo interlocutores do governador Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), a declaração desagradou o tucano, uma vez que o rodízio não está descartado. Massato já havia causado constrangimento ao governo ao dizer, em 27 de janeiro, que São Paulo poderia ficar até cinco dias sem água por semana em caso de racionamento.

    Fora da norma. Massato e o presidente da Sabesp, Jerson Kelman, que também prestou depoimento à CPI, admitiram aos vereadores que a empresa mantém a pressão da água na rede abaixo do recomendado pela Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT), conforme o Estado revelou no início do mês. Segundo o órgão, são necessários ao menos 10 metros de coluna de água para encher todas as caixas.

    “Nós estamos garantindo 1 metro da coluna de água, preservando a rede de distribuição. Mas não tem pressão suficiente para chegar na caixa d’água”, admitiu Massato. “Estamos abaixo dos 10 metros de coluna de água, principalmente nas zonas mais altas e mais distantes dos reservatórios.”

    “Essa é uma medida mitigadora para evitar algo muito pior para a população, que é o rodízio”, afirmou Kelman. “São poucos pontos na rede em que não se tem a pressão exigida pela ABNT para condições normais. Isso não é uma opção da Sabesp. Não estamos em condições normais”, completou.

    Em dezembro, Alckmin disse que a Sabesp cumpria “rigorosamente” a norma técnica. A Sabesp foi notificada pela Agência Reguladora de Saneamento e Energia do Estado de São Paulo (Arsesp) e respondeu na terça-feira aos questionamentos feitos sobre as manobras na rede. O órgão fiscalizador, contudo, ainda não se pronunciou.

    Ar encanado. Questionados sobre a investigação do Ministério Público Estadual que apura suposta cobrança por “ar encanado” pela Sabesp, revelada pelo Estado, os dirigentes da empresa disseram que a prática atingiu apenas 2% dos clientes. Das 22 mil reclamações registradas em fevereiro sobre aumento indevido da conta, 500 culpavam o ar encanado. O problema ocorre quando a água retorna na rede e empurra o ar de volta para as ligações das casas, podendo adulterar a medição do hidrômetro. / COLABOROU RICARDO CHAPOLA

    Without swift influx of substantial aid, Ebola epidemic in Africa poised to explode (Science Daily)

    Date: October 23, 2014

    Source: Yale University

    Summary: The Ebola virus disease epidemic already devastating swaths of West Africa will likely get far worse in the coming weeks and months unless international commitments are significantly and immediately increased, new research predicts.

    Artist’s conception (stock illustration). Credit: © Jim Vallee / Fotolia

    The Ebola virus disease epidemic already devastating swaths of West Africa will likely get far worse in the coming weeks and months unless international commitments are significantly and immediately increased, new research led by Yale researchers predicts.

    The findings are published in the Oct. 24 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

    A team of seven scientists from Yale’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Liberia developed a mathematical transmission model of the viral disease and applied it to Liberia’s most populous county, Montserrado, an area already hard hit. The researchers determined that tens of thousands of new Ebola cases — and deaths — are likely by Dec. 15 if the epidemic continues on its present course.

    “Our predictions highlight the rapidly closing window of opportunity for controlling the outbreak and averting a catastrophic toll of new Ebola cases and deaths in the coming months,” said Alison Galvani, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and the paper’s senior author. “Although we might still be within the midst of what will ultimately be viewed as the early phase of the current outbreak, the possibility of averting calamitous repercussions from an initially delayed and insufficient response is quickly eroding.”

    The model developed by Galvani and colleagues projects as many as 170,996 total reported and unreported cases of the disease, representing 12% of the overall population of some 1.38 million people, and 90,122 deaths in Montserrado alone by Dec. 15. Of these, the authors estimate 42,669 cases and 27,175 deaths will have been reported by that time.

    Much of this suffering — some 97,940 cases of the disease — could be averted if the international community steps up control measures immediately, starting Oct. 31, the model predicts. This would require additional Ebola treatment center beds, a fivefold increase in the speed with which cases are detected, and allocation of protective kits to households of patients awaiting treatment center admission. The study predicts that, at best, just over half as many cases (53,957) can be averted if the interventions are delayed to Nov. 15. Had all of these measures been in place by Oct. 15, the model calculates that 137,432 cases in Montserrado could have been avoided.

    There have been approximately 9,000 reported cases and 4,500 deaths from the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea since the latest outbreak began with a case in a toddler in rural Guinea in December 2013. For the first time cases have been confirmed among health-care workers treating patients in the United States and parts of Europe.

    “The current global health strategy is woefully inadequate to stop the current volatile Ebola epidemic,” co-author Dr. Frederick Altice, professor of internal medicine and public health added. “At a minimum, capable logisticians are needed to construct a sufficient number of Ebola treatment units in order to avoid the unnecessary deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people.”

    Other authors include lead author Joseph Lewnard, Martial L. Ndeffo Mbah, Jorge A. Alfaro-Murillo, Luke Bawo, and Tolbert G. Nyenswah.

    The National Institutes of Health funded the study.


    Journal Reference:

    1. Joseph A Lewnard, Martial L Ndeffo Mbah, Jorge A Alfaro-Murillo, Frederick L Altice, Luke Bawo, Tolbert G Nyenswah, Alison P Galvani. Dynamics and control of Ebola virus transmission in Montserrado, Liberia: a mathematical modelling analysis. Lancet Infectious Diseases, October 24, 2014 DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(14)70995-8

    Cruz Vermelha prevê ao menos quatro meses para controlar ebola (Agência Brasil)

    A epidemia já causou mais de 4,5 mil mortes na África Ocidental

    A epidemia de ebola vai demorar pelo menos quatro meses para ser contida se todas as medidas necessárias forem tomadas, disse hoje (22) o responsável geral da Cruz Vermelha, Elhadj As Sy, alertando para “o preço da inação”. A epidemia já causou mais de 4,5 mil mortes na África Ocidental e os especialistas alertam que a taxa de infecção poderá chegar a 10 mil por semana no início de dezembro.

    Ainda não há vacina aprovada para o ebola, que também atingiu profissionais da saúde na Espanha e nos Estados Unidos.

    Elhadj As Sy listou uma série de medidas que poderiam ajudar a colocar o ebola sob controle, incluindo “um bom isolamento, bom tratamento dos casos confirmados, e bom, seguro e digno enterro às pessoas falecidas”. “Será possível, como era possível no passado, conter esta epidemia dentro de quatro a seis meses” se a resposta for adequada, acrescentou.

    “Eu acho que esta é a nossa melhor perspectiva e nós estamos fazendo todo o possível para mobilizar nossos recursos e nossas capacidades para travar o surto”, destacou. As Sy, que falava em uma conferência da Cruz Vermelha da Ásia-Pacífico, acrescentou que “há sempre um preço pela inação”.

    Novas medidas serão adotadas hoje nos Estados Unidos, entre as quais os voos dos países mais afetados – Libéria, Serra Leoa e Guiné-Conacri – serão encaminhados para cinco aeroportos e os passageiros passarão por exames mais completos de saúde.

    Entretanto, especialistas que escrevem para a revista The Lancet, disseram, na terça-feira (21), que a triagem dos passageiros nos aeroportos de saída seria uma opção melhor do que monitorá-los no destino da viagem.

    (Agência Lusa / Agência Brasil)

    http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/internacional/noticia/2014-10/cruz-vermelha-serao-necessarios-pelo-menos-quatro-meses-para-controlar

    Liberia: Dead Ebola Patients Resurrect? (The New Dawn)

    24 SEPTEMBER 2014

    Photo: Boakai Fofana/allAfricaA burial team carries the body of a suspected Ebola victim under the watchful eyes of police officers.

    By Franklin Doloquee

    Two Ebola patients, who died of the virus in separate communities in Nimba County have reportedly resurrected in the county. The victims, both females, believed to be in their 60s and 40s respectively, died of the Ebola virus recently in Hope Village Community and the Catholic Community in Ganta, Nimba.

    But to the amazement of residents and onlookers on Monday, the deceased reportedly regained life in total disbelief. The New Dawn Nimba County correspondent said the late Dorris Quoi of Hope Village Community and the second victim only identified as Ma Kebeh, said to be in her late 60s, were about to be taken for burial when they resurrected.

    Ma Kebeh had reportedly been in door for two nights without food and medication before her alleged death. Nimba County has had bizarre news of Ebola cases with a native doctor from the county, who claimed that he could cure infected victims, dying of the virus himself last week.

    News of the resurrection of the two victims has reportedly created panic in residents of Hope Village Community and Ganta at large, with some citizens describing Dorris Quoi as a ghost, who shouldn’t live among them. Since the Ebola outbreak in Nimba County, this is the first incident of dead victims resurrecting.

    The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola (Slate)

    The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

    Photo by John Moore/Getty ImagesSuspected Ebola patient Finda “Zanabo” prays over her sick family members before being admitted to the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Aug. 21, 2014, near Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has spiraled out of control, affecting thousands of Liberians, Sierra Leonians, and Guineans, and threatening thousands more, the world’s reaction has been glacially, lethally slow. Only in the past few weeks have heads of state begun to take serious notice. To date, the virus has killed more than 2,600 people. This is a comparatively small number when measured against much more established diseases such as malaria,HIV/AIDS, influenza, and so on, but several factors about this outbreak have some of the world’s top health professionals gravely concerned:

    • Its kill rate: In this particular outbreak, a running tabulation suggests that 54 percent of the infected die, though adjusted numbers suggest that the rate is much higher.
    • Its exponential growth: At this point, the number of people infected is doubling approximately every three weeks, leading some epidemiologists to projectbetween 77,000 and 277,000 cases by the end of 2014.
    • The gruesomeness with which it kills: by hijacking cells and migrating throughout the body to affect all organs, causing victims to bleed profusely.
    • The ease with which it is transmitted: through contact with bodily fluids, including sweat, tears, saliva, blood, urine, semen, etc., including objects that have come in contact with bodily fluids (such as bed sheets, clothing, and needles) and corpses.
    • The threat of mutation: Prominent figures have expressed serious concerns that this disease will go airborne, and there are many other mechanisms through which mutation might make it much more transmissible.

    Terrifying as these factors are, it is not clear to me that any of them capture what is truly, horribly tragic about this disease.

    The most striking thing about the virus is the way in which it propagates. True, through bodily fluids, but to suggest as much is to ignore the conditions under which bodily contact occurs. Instead, the mechanism Ebola exploits is far more insidious. This virus preys on care and love, piggybacking on the deepest, most distinctively human virtues. Affected parties are almost all medical professionals and family members, snared by Ebola while in the business of caring for their fellow humans. More strikingly, 75 percent of Ebola victims are women, people who do much of the care work throughout Africa and the rest of the world. In short, Ebola parasitizes our humanity.

    More than most other pandemic diseases (malaria, cholera, plague, etc.) and more than airborne diseases (influenza, swine flu, H5N1, etc.) that are transmitted indiscriminately through the air, this disease is passed through very minute amounts of bodily fluid. Just a slip of contact with the infected party and the caregiver herself can be stricken.

    The images coming from Africa are chilling. Little boys, left alone in the street without parents, shivering and sick, untouchable by the throngs of people around them. Grown men, writhing at the door to a hospital, hoping for care as their parents stand helplessly, wondering how to help. Mothers and fathers, fighting weakness and exhaustion to move to the edge of a tent in order to catch a distant, final glimpse of a get-well video that their children have made for them.

    If Ebola is not stopped, this disease can destroy whole families within a month, relatives of those families shortly thereafter, friends of those relatives after that, and on and on. As it takes hold (and it is taking hold fast), it cuts out the heart of family and civilization. More than the profuse bleeding and high kill rate, this is why the disease is terrifying. Ebola sunders the bonds that make us human.

    Aid providers are now working fastidiously to sever these ties themselves, fighting hopelessly against the natural inclinations that people have to love and care for the ill. They have launched aggressive public information campaigns, distributedupdates widely, called for more equipment and gear, summoned the military, tried to rein in the hysteria, and so on. Yet no sheet of plastic or latex can disrupt these human inclinations.

    Such heroic efforts are the appropriate medical response to a virulent public health catastrophe. The public health community is doing an incredible job, facing unbelievable risks, relying on extremely limited resources. Yet these efforts can only do half of the work. Infected parties—not all, to be sure, but some (enough)—cannot abide by the rules of disease isolation. Some will act without donning protective clothing. Some will assist without taking proper measures. And still others will refuse to enter isolation units because doing so means leaving their families and their loved ones behind, abandoning their humanity, and subjecting themselves to the terror of dying a sterile, lonely death.

    It is tempting, at these times, to focus on the absurd and senseless actions of a few. One of the primary vectors in Sierra Leone is believed to have been a traditional healer who had been telling people that she could cure Ebola. In Monrovia a few weeks back, angry citizens stormed a clinic and removed patients from their care. “There is no Ebola!” they are reported to have been shouting. More recently, the largest newspaper in Liberia published an article suggesting that Ebola is a conspiracy of the United States, aimed to undermine Africa. And, perhaps even more sadly, a team of health workers and journalists was just brutally murdered in Guinea. It is easy, in other words, to blame the spread on stupidity, or illiteracy, or ritualism, or conspiracy theories, or any number of other irrational factors.

    Photo by John Moore/Getty ImagesA man checks on a very sick Saah Exco, 10, in a back alley of the West Point slum on Aug. 19, 2014, in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    But imagine: You are a parent whose child has suddenly come ill with a fever. Do you cast your child away and refuse to touch him? Do you cover your face and your arms? Stay back! Unclean! Or do you comfort your child when he asks for you, arms outstretched, to make the pain go away?

    Imagine: You live in a home with five other family members. Your sister falls ill, ostensibly from Ebola, but possibly from malaria, typhoid, yellow fever, or the flu. You are aware of the danger to yourself and your other family members, but you have no simple means to move her, and she is too weak to move herself. What do you do?

    Imagine: You are a child of 5 years old. Your mother is sick. She implores you to back away. But you are scared. What you need, more than anything, is a hug and a cry.

    Who can blame a person for this? It is a terrible, awful predicament. A moral predicament. To stay, comfort, and give love and care to those who are in desperate need, or to shuttle them off into an isolation ward, perhaps never to see them again? What an inhumane decision this is.

    What makes the Ebola virus so terrifying is not its kill rate, its exponential growth, the gruesome way in which it kills, the ease of transmission, or the threat of mutation, but rather that people who care can do almost nothing but sit on the sidelines and watch.

    * * *

    Many have asked whether Ebola could come here, come West. (The implication, in its way, is crass—as if to suggest that we need not be concerned about a tragedy unless it poses a threat to us.) We have been reassured that it will never spread widely here, because our public health networks are too strong, our hospitals too well-stocked. The naysayers may be right about this. But they are not right that it does not pose a threat to us.

    For starters, despite the pretense, the West is not immune from absurd, unscientific thinking. We have our fair share of scientific illiteracy, skepticism, ritualism, and foolishness. But beyond this, it is our similarities, not our differences, that make us vulnerable to this plague. We are human. Every mechanism we have for caring—touching, holding, feeding, playing, warming, comforting, caressing—every mechanism that we use to bind us to our families and our neighbors, is preyed upon by Ebola. We cannot seal each other into hyperbaric chambers and expect that once we emerge, the carnage will be over. We are humans, and we will care about our children and our families even if it means that we may die in doing so.

    The lesson here is a vital one: People do not give up on humanity so very easily. Even if we persuade all of the population to forgo rituals like washing the dead, we will not easily persuade parents to keep from holding their sick children, children from clinging to their ailing parents, or children from playing and wrestling and slobbering all over one another. We tried to alter such behaviors with HIV/AIDS. A seemingly simple edict—“just lay off the sex with infected parties”—would seem all that is required to halt that disease. But we have learned over the decades that people do not give up sex so readily.

    If you think curtailing sex is hard, love and compassion will be that much harder. Humans will never give this up—we cannot give this up, for it is fundamental to who we are. The more that medical personnel require this of people without also giving them methods to manifest care, the more care and compassion will manifest in pockets outside of quarantine. And the more humanity that manifests unchecked, the more space this virus has to grow. Unchecked humanity will seep through the cracks and barriers that we build to keep our families safe, and if left to find its own way, will carry a lethal payload.

    The problem is double-edged. Ebola threatens humanity by preying on humanity. The seemingly simple solution is to destroy humanity ourselves—to seal everything off and let the disease burn out on its own. But doing so means destroying ourselves in order to save ourselves, which is no solution at all.

    Photo by John Moore/Getty ImagesA medical worker in a protective suit works near Ebola patients in a Doctors Without Borders hospital on Sept. 7, 2014, in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

    We must find a method of caring without touching, of contacting without making contact. The physiological barriers are, for the time being, necessary. But we cannot stop people from caring about one another, so we must create, for the time being, mechanisms for caring. Since we will never be able to beat back humanity, we must coordinate humanity, at the family level, the local level, and the global level.

    The only one way to battle a disease that affixes itself parasitically to our humanity is to overwhelm it with greater, stronger humanity. To immunize Africa and the rest of the world with a blast of humanity so powerful that the disease can no longer take root. What it will take to beat this virus is to turn its most powerful vehicle, our most powerful weapon, against it.

    Here are some things we can do:

    Donate to the great organizations that are working tirelessly to bring this disease under control. They need volunteers, medical supplies, facilities, transportation, food, etc. Share information about Ebola, so people will learn about it, know about it, and know how to address it when it comes. And inform and help others. It is natural at a time of crisis to call for sealing the borders, to build fences and walls that separate us further from outside threats. But a disease that infects humanity cannot easily be walled off in this way. Walling off just creates unprotected pockets of humanity, divisions between us and them: my family, your family; that village, this village; inside, outside.

    * * *

    One final thing.

    When Prince Prospero, ill-fated protagonist of Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Masque of the Red Death,” locked himself in his castle to avoid a contagion that was sweeping his country—a disease that caused “profuse bleeding at the pores”—he assumed mistakenly that the only reasonable solution to his problem was to remove himself from the scene. For months he lived lavishly, surrounded by courtiers, improvisatori, buffoons, musicians, and wine, removed from danger while the pestilence wrought havoc outside.

    As with much of Poe’s writing, Prospero’s tale does not end well. For six months, all was calm. He and his courtiers enjoyed their lives, secure and isolated from the plague laying waste to the countryside. Then, one night during a masquerade ball, the Red Death snuck into the castle, hidden behind a mask and a cloak, to afflict Prospero and his revelers, dropping them one by one in the “blood-bedewed halls.” Prospero’s security was a façade, leaving darkness and decay to hold “illimitable dominion over all.” The eventual intrusion that would be his undoing foretells of a danger in believing that we can keep the world’s ills at bay by keeping our distance.

    If we seek safety by shutting out the rest of the world, we are in for a brutally ugly awakening. Nature is a cruel mistress, but Ebola is her cruelest, most devious trick yet.

    Benjamin Hale is associate professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Colorado–Boulder. He is vice president of the International Society of Environmental Ethics and co-editor of the journal Ethics, Policy & Environment.

    What’s the Beef? (Slate)

    No, “Meatless Monday” is not an evil vegetarian plot to deprive our children of precious steak, pork, and chicken.

    Photo by Debbi Morello/Getty Images

    First-grader Christina Muse, pictured on Oct. 15, 2002, at North Hampton School in New Hampshire, taunts the meat industry by eating cheese pizza. Photo by Debbi Morello/Getty Images

    The meat industry has a serious case of the Mondays. A growing number of school districts, including ones in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Miami, are committing to keep meat off the menu for one day a week to combat childhood obesity. These “Meatless Monday” initiatives have drawn the ire of America’s beef, poultry, and pork interests, which see them as the first, flesh-free volley in a war against America’s meat peddlers. The less-meat movement has also proved to be a flashpoint for elected officials, namely those from farm states, who seem to be placing the economic interests of their home-state industries above the health and wellbeing of their states’ populaces.

    This story played out somewhat quietly on the national stage several years ago, when a few grandstanding politicians caught wind of an interoffice newsletter at the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggesting employees consider eating less meat. Now, it’s getting more attention at the local level. This week Todd Staples, the head of Texas’ Agriculture Department, unleashed a blistering—if largely fact-free—jeremiad against the Meatless Monday movement after learning that it had been enacted by elementary schools in Dripping Springs, an Austin suburb. (He was apparently unaware that several schools in Houston have been experimenting with the idea for some time.) “Restricting children’s meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible and has no place in our schools,” Staples wrote inan op-ed published by the Austin American-Statesman. “This activist movement called ‘Meatless Monday’ is a carefully orchestrated campaign that seeks to eliminate meat from Americans’ diets seven days a week—starting with Mondays.” Dun dun DUN!

    An elected official like Staples can, of course, stake out a position that aligns with a particular industry without simply being a mouthpiece for it. But the agriculture commissioner’s overblown rhetoric echoes the official company line of the meat industry, which has filled his campaign coffers with at least $116,000 since 2010, according to public records. It’s hard to fault meat producers for wanting people to eat more meat. It’s a different story, though, when someone like Staples spouts such talking points at a time when the nation is battling both an obesity epidemic and a global climate crisis—two problems driven, at least in part, by resource-intensive meat production.

    In some corners of the country, neither of those concerns is seen as much of a reason to impose mandates from above. The irony here is that the Dripping Springs initiative is a local one—the very type of decision that small-government advocates say is under attack from the national school-lunch standards championed by Michelle Obama. “Are we having a war on meat in Dripping Springs? Definitely not,” John Crowley, the head of nutrition services for the school district, told a local CBS affiliate this week. “We’re trying to think outside the box, and we serve a lot of Texas beef on our menus. We’ve had requests for more vegetarian options, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I give it a try and see how it’s received by kids?’ ”

    This is a message that kids should be receiving. According to the 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly one-third of American kids are either overweight or obese, a classification linked to Type 2 diabetes and myriad other health problems. The meat industry, meanwhile, is one of the top contributors to climate change, with the United Nations estimating that it directly or indirectly produces about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone from the American Heart Association to the Norwegian military has touted the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat.

    Such endorsements mean little to Staples and his meat-minded allies, who either downplay or downright deny the benefits of curbing meat consumption. But their dire warnings of The End of Meat aside, their argument also fails on a smaller scale. Opponents routinely overlook the fact that meatless meals are not by definition protein-free, a claim at the heart of Staples’ op-ed. “It is important to remember that for many underprivileged children the meals they eat at school often represents their best meals of the day,” the Republican commissioner wrote. “To deprive them of a meat-based protein during school lunch is most likely depriving them of their only source of protein for the day.”

    That makes no sense given that Meatless Monday menus include items like bean-and-cheese burritos and cheese pizza, meals that come with a hefty serving of protein—and, thanks to dairy, animal protein at that. Meanwhile, the national school lunch program requires schools to offer a weekly menu that meets a minimum threshold for protein, so a Dripping Springs student who goes meatless on Monday is in little danger of being protein-deprived come Friday. Kids who want a ham sandwich, meanwhile, are still welcome to bring one from home—and there are obviously no restrictions on what a child can eat outside school. The participating cafeterias, meanwhile, continue to serve up a variety of meats the rest of the week.

    Following Staples’ logic will take you to an absurd place. If a lunch menu is an edict from on high as he suggests, then when a cafeteria serves a hamburger but not a hot dog, it is “forcing” kids to eat beef while “denying” them pork—or any number of food items not on that particular day’s menu, for that matter, be it chicken, fish, or atarragon shallot egg salad sandwich with a side of butternut squash soup with chestnuts.

    As commissioner, Staples oversees the agency that administers the school lunch programs in his state. There appears to be little he can do, at least formally, to stop the cafeterias’ Meatless Mondays from spreading their steak-free sentiments across the rest of Texas. “As long as [the schools] follow the requirements of the National School Lunch Program, they can serve anything they want,” says Humane Society of the United States food policy director Eddie Garza, who worked with the Dripping Springs cafeterias to implement the program. “Staples doesn’t have any real weight on this other than writing op-eds.”

    While Staples’ formal power may be limited, his industry allies have managed to score meaty victories in the past. Last summer they managed to squash a small-scale Meatless Monday program in Capitol Hill cafeterias in a matter of days by branding it “an acknowledged tool of animal rights and environmental organizations who seek to publicly denigrate U.S. livestock and poultry production.”

    One of their more notable wins came in 2012, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture published that interoffice newsletter. It read, in part: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.” The backlash from the industry—and the backtracking from the agency that followed—was strong and instantaneous. Almost immediately after the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association publicly voiced its anger, farm-state lawmakers like Iowa Republicans Chuck Grassley and Steve King scrambled to fall in line. Sen. Grassley tweeted, “I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation [about] a meatless Monday.” Rep. King was even more specific with his plan, promising to stage his own “double rib-eye Mondays” in protest. “With extreme drought conditions plaguing much of the United States, the USDA should be more concerned about helping drought-stricken producers rather than demonizing an industry reeling from the lack of rain,” Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statementthat appeared all the more short-sighted given the realities of climate change.

    Before the day was out, the newsletter was taken offline, and the USDA issued a statement saying that it “does not endorse Meatless Monday.” The newsletter—which also offered a variety of other small-scale energy-efficiency tips for agency employees—“was posted without proper clearance,” according to the department.

    Unwilling to forgive and forget, Staples chimed in by calling for the employee who wrote the newsletter to be fired, calling the very suggestion that people eat less meat “treasonous.” “Last I checked,” Staples said then, “USDA had a very specific duty to promote and champion American agriculture. Imagine Ford or Chevy discouraging the purchase of their pickup trucks. Anyone else see the absurdity? How about the betrayal?”

    That type of twisted logic only works in a world where agriculture officials serve the food industry and not the American public. Unfortunately, that feels like it’s the case all too often.

    Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

    The Future Will Be Swarming With Rats (Motherboard)

    Written by BRIAN MERCHANT, SENIOR EDITOR

    July 29, 2014 // 02:00 PM CET

    That cockroaches will inherit our despoiled earth is just a tired misconception. The real champions will be disease-carrying rats.

    Even though cockroaches seem to be of inexhaustible supply, their invertebrate ilk are actually suffering a fairly rapid decline—and the rodents are rising up. In a recent and widely-discussed study in Science, researchers examined a process called defaunation—remember that term, it’s likely to prove as vital as ‘Arctic ice melt’ or ‘habitat loss’ to understanding our planet’s ecological collapse—that describes how the majority of the world’s animals are vanishing at a rapid pace.

    Led by Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford University, a team of scientists documented the rate that fauna are going extinct in the modern era. Since the year 1500 AD, at least 320 vertebrate species have been extinguished, primarily due to human activity. Those that remain have seen their total populations decline by 25 percent. Even more striking is the decline of insects: In the past 35 years alone, the scientists found that the number of invertebrates have plummeted 45 percent. The researchers cite the drops as further evidence that we are bearing witness to the unfurling of the Anthropocene Extinction event—the planet’s sixth great mass extinction.

    So who wins, besides humans, when the bees and the tigers and the bears lose? Rats.

    “Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” Dirzo said in a statement upon the study’s publication. “Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”

    Hilary Young, one of the study’s authors, has conducted previous research examining how rodents thrived after a large species went extinct.

    RATS COULD GROW LARGER THAN SHEEP

    “What we found was that these areas quickly experienced massive increases of rodents,” Young told The Current. “All the grass and shrubs normally eaten by this megafauna was, instead, available for rodents—both as food and as shelter. Consequently, the number of rodents doubled—and so did the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbored.”

    Twice the rats. And twice the ectoparasites. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences examined how parasite-carrying rats are instrumental in transporting disease: “Rodents together with arthropod ectoparasites can play an important role in the distribution of the arboviruses, streptococcal infections, choriomeningitis, plague, tularemia, leptospirosis, spirochaetosis etc.,” the authors wrote.

    “Ectoparasites include insects and acarnies (fleas and mites),” the 2013 study continued, “some of them are permanent like lice, while most of the mature ticks and fleas are temporary parasites. Rats are known to harbor four groups of arthropod ectoparasites: fleas, ticks, mites and lice… Some of the ectoparasites can biologically or mechanically transfer infectious agents to the human or animals and results in the spread of infection.”

    In other words, rats carry a lot of parasites, which carry a lot of diseases. Here, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is a quick list of the diseases rats are currently responsible for spreading in the United States:

    • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
    • Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome
    • Lassa Fever
    • Leptospirosis
    • Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)
    • Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
    • Plague
    • Rat-Bite Fever
    • Salmonellosis
    • South American Arenaviruses (Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabiá-associated hemorrhagic fever, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever)
    • Tularemia

    It’s an ugly list. And in light of their impending dominance, it’s worth remembering that rats played a key role in helping spread the bubonic plague during the Black Death. Crammed, unhygienic living conditions helped it become such a devastating killer, but it was an ectoparasite—a flea—that brought the plague.

    “The bubonic plague, a disease still present in some areas of the world, is now known to have spread via fleas living on rats,” Mark Ormrod, a professor of history at the University of York, wrote for the BBC.

    Our hygiene and health-care are much improved from Medieval times, but we are headed towards a future marked by shared, maybe cramped, living spaces: More than half the world’s population currently lives in cities, billions are slated to join them, and so, the megacities are growing. More urban living, paired with more rats, could beget similar, if not as deadly, health woes.

    And Dirzo and his crew aren’t the only ones who worry about the rise of the rats. In fact, just earlier this year, another group of scientists determined that rodents would be the species most likely to outlast all others.

    Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester, believes that rats are the animal best suited to repopulate the world in the event of a mass extinction.

    “[Rats] are now on many, if not most, islands around the world,” he explained, “and once there, have proved extraordinarily hard to eradicate. They’re often there for good, essentially. Once there, they have out-competed many native species and at times have driven them to extinction. As a result, ecospace is being emptied—and rats are in a good position to re-fill a significant chunk of it, in the mid to far geological future.”

    For many of us, that future is exceedingly easy to imagine. By some counts, in New York, there are twice as many rats as human residents. They are a scourge in other cities, too, of course.

    As humans continue to knock out the larger fauna, and the number of rats “double” to fill the void, we can, theoretically, look forward to seeing more of all of the above. And even if you’re not concerned with the health implications, there’s the simple fact that we’re hacking away at our immense, spectacular biodiversity, and trading it in for a deeply unpleasant, rat-centric monotony.

    Beyond defaunation, there’s evidence that climate change is improving conditions for rats in general in many regions, too. It’s also probably worth adding at this point that warmer temperatures are causing some rat species to grow larger, too, thus adding another potential population booster. Zalasiewicz, for his part, imagines that once its competition is scarce, rats could become larger than sheep.

    So that, then, is a foreboding slice of the Anthropocene: Giant, parasite-and-disease-carrying rats, multiplying in droves while everything else goes extinct.

     

     

    Exposing Monsanto: Herbicide Linked to Birth Defects – the Vitamin A Connection (Truthout)

    Monday, 28 July 2014 09:27

    By Jeff Ritterman, M.D., Truthout | Op-Ed

    Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, with glyphosate as the primary ingredient, has recently been linked to a fatal kidney disease epidemic ravaging parts of Central America, India and Sri Lanka. A leading theory hypothesizes that complexes of glyphosate and heavy metals poison the kidney tubules. El Salvador and Sri Lankahave adopted the precautionary principle and taken action to ban the herbicide. In the United States, glyphosate is coming up for review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2014. Monsanto claims a low risk to human health, but the research is showing something very different. Will these health concerns be enough for the EPA to put restrictions on the herbicide – or to ban it altogether?

    Monsanto’s Claims of Safety

    Thus far, Monsanto has been successful in portraying Roundup as a safe and effective herbicide. The Monsanto website claims:

    Glyphosate binds tightly to most types of soil so it is not available for uptake by roots of nearby plants. It works by disrupting a plant enzyme involved in the production of amino acids that are essential to plant growth. The enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals, contributing to the low risk to human health from the use of glyphosate according to label directions.

    Public Kept in the Dark

    Contrary to the company’s claims of safety, a virtual avalanche of scientific studies on animals, including some funded by Monsanto itself, show alarming incidences of fetal deaths and birth defects. The record also shows that Monsanto has known since the 1980s that glyphosate in high doses causes malformations in experimental animals. Since 1993, the company has been aware that even middle and low doses can cause these malformations. These malformations include absent kidneys and lungs, enlarged hearts, extra ribs, and missing and abnormally formed bones of the limbs, ribs, sternum, spine and skull.

    These startling revelations can be found in the report Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark? The document is authored by eight experts from the fields of molecular genetics, agro-ecology, toxico-pathology, scientific ethics, ecological agriculture, plant genetics, public health and cell biology. This report, written primarily for a European readership, is highly critical of the biotech industry and of the European Union’s failure to evaluate glyphosate based on the science rather than on political concerns. It calls for an immediate withdrawal of Roundup and glyphosate from the European Union until a thorough scientific evaluation is done on the herbicide. From the report:

    The public has been kept in the dark by industry and regulators about the ability of glyphosate and Roundup to cause malformations. In addition, the work of independent scientists who have drawn attention to the herbicide’s teratogenic effects has been ignored, denigrated or dismissed. These actions on the part of industry and regulators have endangered public health. (Authors note: Ateratogen is any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or a fetus. The term stems from the Greek teras, meaning monster).

    Monsanto’s Safety Claim Misleads

    How is it possible that there are so many adverse health impacts in the test animals, if, as Monsanto claims, “the enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals”?

    The reason is simple. Roundup attacks other enzyme systems, which are indeed present in the animal kingdom.

    We owe this knowledge to a group of scientists from Argentina who became concerned about human birth defects in areas of their country where Roundup was being sprayed from airplanes as part of genetically modified (GM) soy production. They decided to do laboratory research to explore whether Roundup would produce similar developmental abnormalities in test animals. Experimenting with frog and chicken embryos, they found that those embryos exposed to the herbicide developedsignificant malformations, including neural defects and craniofacial malformations similar to the birth defects seen in humans.

    Not only did this group of scientists demonstrate that Roundup causes birth defects in the animals tested, but they also were able to demonstrate how Roundup caused the fetal abnormalities. The herbicide increased the activity of the Vitamin A (retinoic acid) “signaling pathway.” It’s called a signaling pathway because it turns genes on and off. Roundup causes an abnormal increase in activity of this pathway, which turns off certain genes. Unfortunately, those very genes are needed for normal embryological development. When the Roundup turns off those genes, birth defects result.

    This signaling pathway is shared by virtually all vertebrates, including amphibians, birds and mammals. Thus, it seems quite likely that the birth defects seen in frogs, chickens, rats, rabbits and humans all occur because Roundup attacks this pathway. It also seems likely that if we continue to allow glyphosate to accumulate in the environment, we can expect vertebrates of many types to suffer increasing rates of birth defects. This, of course, includes humans.

    Roundup and Birth Defects: the Story From Latin America

    The Argentinian researchers were motivated by humanitarian concerns. They were aware of the many worrisome reports of increases in birth defects in Argentina and in other parts of Latin America attributed to aerial glyphosate spraying.

    A frightening example is a study of birth defects in Argentina, which found that Cordoba, an area of intensive planting of GM soy and heavy glyphosate use, had a higher incidence of spina bifida (spinal cord protrusion in the lower back), microtia(abnormal ear), cleft lip and palate, polycystic kidney, postaxial polydactyly (extra fingers or toes) and Down’s Syndrome than other regions. Many of these defects are of the type associated with disturbances in the Vitamin A signaling system.

    Chaco, Argentina is also a region of intensive GM soy production and heavy glyphosate use. In the last decade, coincident with expansion of GM soy production,birth defects have increased threefold and cancer rates have increased fourfold. A court in the adjacent province of Santa Fe, a major GM soy-producing region, banned the spraying of glyphosate and other agrochemicals in populated areas because of concerns about “severe damage to the environment and to the health and quality of life of the residents.”

    Itapua, Paraguay is another GM soy dominated area. Here, residents have suffered a similar fate. Women exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy have a high incidence of fetal deformities similar to those seen in Argentina. These deformities, once again, can be explained by glyphosate’s ability to interfere with the Vitamin A signaling pathway.

    Rounding Up the Science

    Glyphosate has been conclusively proven to cause birth defects in frogs, chickens, rats, rabbits, and also in humans. Monsanto’s claim that Roundup is safe because it kills weeds by attacking one specific enzyme system not found in animals is misleading. Monsanto has a very large investment in maintaining this illusion. Half of Monsanto’s revenue comes from the sale of Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds.

    Roundup attacks vital enzyme systems found in animals, including in humans. It is now clear that interference by Roundup with one of these enzyme systems, the Vitamin A signaling system, can result in severe birth defects. This system is shared by most vertebrates, making Roundup capable of inducing devastating birth defects in a wide variety of amphibians, birds and mammals, and possibly reptiles and fish as well. Allowing glyphosate to continue to build up in the environment will likely cause increased rates of birth defects in all vertebrates exposed, including humans. Exposure, of course, includes the digestion of exposed plants and animals.

    Policy Recommendation

    The science is clear. There is only one rational response. No family should have to tolerate the risk of significant birth defects – in the United States, or in any part of the world. Roundup and other glyphosate formulations should be banned. Thus far, the voices of public health advocates in this country have been drowned out by those promoting biotechnology and its profits, regardless of the health consequences. We can’t let this continue. Our health, the health of our children and the health of our environment must come first. It is the responsibility of our governmental institutions to protect humanity, not corporate profit.

    It’s long past time for us to heed Rachel Carson’s warning from Silent Spring:

    If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals – eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.

    Pass this on. Raise your voice.

    Agora manteiga faz bem e carne faz mal? (Jornal da Ciência)

    JC e-mail 4973, de 16 de junho de 2014

    Artigo de Luís Maurício Trambaioli para o Jornal da Ciência

    Está sendo amplamente divulgado na mídia um recente estudo em que os pesquisadores de Harvard, a partir de questionário de perguntas feito em 1991 a enfermeiras, inferiu que mulheres teriam 22 % de risco relativo aumentado de câncer de mama quando consumindo uma porção a mais de carne vermelha que mulheres que consomem menos.

    Entretanto, risco relativo não é risco absoluto, o qual pode ser calculado pelos dados originais. A chance de desenvolver a doença seria vista em 1 em cada 100.000 mulheres, e não em 22 em cada 100 mulheres como tem sido noticiado pela falsa impressão que o ‘risco relativo’ nos dá. Mais, esta incidência é exatamente em grupos de mulheres que mais fumam.

    É importante cuidado na forma que se divulga as notícias de estudos epidemiológicos e feitos por apenas um grupo. Melhor seria obter um parecer de especialistas na área e ainda preferencialmente resultados advindos de mais estudos obtidos por outros pesquisadores, evitando assim bias e viés na ciência. Sob risco de acontecer acusações levianas como ocorrido na década de 80 que levou a demonizar a gordura saturada há exatos 30 anos sem evidências científicas que suportassem tal idéia, o que direcionou a humanidade ao desespero de consumo de alimentos sem gordura e compensando com a ingestão de mais “carboidratos complexos” (amido) e baixos em micronutrientes. E o resultado foi a epidemia de diabetes e obesidade (chamado no exterior de diabesity), doenças cardiovasculares, câncer, dentre outras.

    E agora, o que cortar do bacon: a gordura ou a carne ?

    Luís Maurício Trambaioli é professor associado da Faculdade de Farmácia da UFRJ e pesquisador associado do INMETRO

    Referências:

    BMJ – “Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study” – http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3437

    Resposta ao estudo: http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g3437?tab=responses

    Time Magazine, 26/03/1984 – And Now the Bad News –
    http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1704183_1704257_1704499,00.html

    Time Magazine, 23/06/2014 – Ending the War on Fat – http://time.com/2863227/ending-the-war-on-fat/
    http://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/saude/carne-vermelha-pode-aumentar-risco-de-cancer-de-mama-diz-estudo-de-harvard-12803653

    Batalha contra nova pandemia de câncer no Sul (IPS) 

    17/4/2014 – 10h49

    por Kanya D’Almeida, da IPS

    paciente Batalha contra nova pandemia de câncer no Sul

    Nações Unidas, 17/4/2014 – Poucos no mundo podem alardear que o câncer não os tocou. Neste momento, milhões enfrentam uma batalha pessoal contra a doença e muitos mais estão sentados juntos a seres queridos que lutam por sua vida, visitando amigos que se recuperam de uma quimioterapia ou averiguando sobre os últimos tratamentos para seus familiares. O prognóstico da organização líder em pesquisa sobre câncer não indica melhorias. O Informe Mundial do Câncer 2014 diz que nos próximos 20 anos se espera que os novos casos aumentem 70%, chegando a 25 milhões em 2025.

    Produzido a cada cinco anos pela Agência Internacional para a Pesquisa sobre o Câncer (Iarc), da Organização Mundial da Saúde, o informe de 632 páginas aponta que os novos casos passaram de 12,7 milhões em 2008 para 14,1 milhões em 2012. Neste último ano, o mundo experimentou o recorde de 8,2 milhões de mortes por câncer. Os países em desenvolvimento estão entre a cruz e a espada. Por um lado, seguem sofrendo uma grande presença de tipos de câncer associados a infecções, como o de colo uterino, estômago e fígado, que são relacionados à pobreza e à falta de água potável, vacinas, centros de detecção precoce e opções adequadas de tratamento.

    Por outro lado, os tumores relacionados com estilos de vida opulentos, como o de pulmão, mama e intestino grosso – pelo elevado consumo de tabaco, álcool e alimentos pesados – também estão dizimando as fileiras crescentes das classes médias desses países.

    A África, por exemplo, experimenta uma “alta alarmante” do tabagismo, e a previsão é que a quantidade de adultos fumantes passe de “77 milhões para 572 milhões até 2100, se não forem aplicadas novas políticas”, afirma a Sociedade Norte-Americana do Câncer. O sul-africano Evan Blecher, diretor do programa internacional de pesquisa sobre controle do tabaco dessa entidade, atribui esse aumento a múltiplos fatores. Um dos principais é o crescimento econômico.

    “As economias africanas estão crescendo mais rapidamente e de forma mais sustentada do que nos últimos 50 anos”, afirmou Blecher à IPS, da Cidade do Cabo, sua cidade natal. “O crescimento econômico impulsiona o consumo de tabaco porque há mais dinheiro. Alguns dos países onde vemos maior aumento do tabagismo são Angola, República Democrática do Congo, Etiópia, Madagascar, Moçambique, Senegal e Nigéria, que são os de maior crescimento econômico da África e do mundo”, acrescentou.

    Esta dupla carga, de tumores da pobreza e da opulência, paira sobre sistemas de saúde que já estão sob pressão. A Agência Internacional de Energia Atômica (AIEA) informa que os países de renda média e baixa, onde residem 85% da população mundial, possuem apenas 4.400 máquinas de megavoltagem, o que representa menos de 35% das instalações mundiais de radioterapia. A AIEA também afirma que 23 países com mais de um milhão de habitantes cada um, a maioria na África, não têm um só aparelho de radioterapia.

    R. Sankaranarayanan, consultor especial da Iarc, pontuou à IPS que a brecha oncológica não separa apenas as nações em diferentes graus de desenvolvimento, mas as populações dentro delas. “A enorme disparidade de sobrevivência de câncer de mama entre as zonas rurais e urbanas de China, Índia e Tailândia, ou entre as populações negras e brancas dos Estados Unidos, é um bom exemplo”, ressaltou. Pesquisadores e médicos dos Estados Unidos dizem que há uma diferença de 8,8% nas taxas de mortalidade por câncer de mama das mulheres negras para as brancas.

    Como a obesidade é um grave problema para as comunidades afro-norte-americanas (afeta 50% dos adultos negros e 35% dos brancos), não surpreende que elas tenham maior incidência de câncer colo-retal, associado ao consumo excessivo de alimentos processados e pouco saudáveis.

    Na Índia, onde foram registrados mais de um milhão de novos casos em 2012 e quase um milhão de mortes por alguma forma de câncer, a grande diversidade de estilos de vida se mostra como o fator decisivo da brecha oncológica. Por exemplo, a maior incidência de câncer se registrou no Estado de Mizorán, uma das regiões de maior crescimento econômico, enquanto a menor ocorreu em Barshi, distrito rural do Estado de Maharashtra, onde boa parte da população se dedica à atividade agrícola.

    Silvana Luciani, assessora em prevenção e controle do câncer da Organização Pan-Americana da Saúde, observou que as disparidades dos serviços de saúde dentro da região também resultam em taxas de mortalidade desequilibradas. “Na América Central a mortalidade por câncer de colo uterino é de 15 ou 18 mortes por cem mil pessoas, enquanto na América do Norte é de duas por cem mil”, detalhou à IPS. “Isso se deve a programas de detecção como o exame papanicolau que são realizados há muito tempo na América do Norte e têm uma qualidade muito maior do que na América Central, onde os serviços de saúde estão fragmentados”, acrescentou.

    Sankaranarayanan destacou que países como Coreia do Sul, Turquia, Malásia, Índia, Gana, Marrocos, Brasil, Chile, Colômbia, Costa Rica e México “estão adotando sistemas de saúde de atenção universal ou seguros nacionais de saúde dirigidos às populações mais pobres”. Mas “as populações cada vez mais envelhecidas e o surgimento de tecnologias oncológicas muito caras aumentam as pressões sobre esses serviços”, enfatizou.

    Uma barreira ao desenvolvimento

    O câncer de pulmão encabeça a lista de diagnósticos, com 1,8 milhão, ou quase 13% do total mundial. Em seguida vem o câncer de mama, com 1,7 milhão, enquanto o que afeta o intestino grosso representa 9,7%.

    O mais mortal continua sendo o de pulmão, que mata 1,6 milhão de pessoas por ano, enquanto outras 800 mil falecem por câncer de fígado e 700 mil por câncer de estômago. Esta mortandade é acompanhada de custos astronômicos dos serviços de saúde, que em 2010 chegaram a US$ 1,6 trilhão.

    A incidência cresce em países de renda média e baixa que não têm nem a experiência nem os recursos financeiros para enfrentar a situação. De todos os casos diagnosticados, 60% correspondem a Ásia, África e América do Sul, mesmas regiões onde ocorrem 70% das mortes. Envolverde/IPS