Doctors Expose Zika Virus Hoax-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Doctors in South America have found that an insecticide used in crop dusting causes the birth defect microcephaly, not the Zika virus.
The Zika virus isn’t a hoax.
Claims that a birth defect thought to be caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus has actually been linked to a chemical used to kill mosquitoes are nothing more than conspiracy theories at this point.
But it’s true that global public health officials aren’t 100% certain that the Zika virus is to blame for an outbreak of microcephaly — a birth defect that causes undersized heads and incomplete brain development — in northern Brazil, either. That’s left the door open for a wide range of conspiracy theories, including this one.
Even so, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that researchers are finding “an increasing body of evidence about the link between Zika virus and microcephaly,” but more research is needed, and other cause are being investigated.
The Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos, has been found in humans since the 1950s. In adults, the virus causes flu-like symptoms. And a growing body of research is suggesting that a new variation of the Zika virus strain is causing microcephaly in newborn babies.
There have been 460 confirmed cases of microcephaly in Brazil, and another 3,850 cases are being investigated. The common link between babies born with with microcephaly is that they all test positive for the Zika virus, the BBC reports:
Scientists told the BBC that samples taken from the brain tissue of the two babies showed that the Zika virus was still actively present.
The research was conducted by scientists from Rio’s Federal University (UFRJ), Fiocruz Institute and Paraiba’s Professor Amorim Neto Research Institute.
The scientists have been following the pregnancies of 10 women in the north-eastern state of Paraiba – the second worst-hit by cases of microcephaly.
One of the researchers who made the possible connection between Zika and brain defects, Dr Adriana Melo, told the BBC that cases she has seen in the north-east of Brazil “are never microcephaly alone” – but include other brain disorders such as dilated ventricles, calcifications and contractures to the joints.
The BBC’s Julia Carneiro in Rio de Janeiro says that the findings add more evidence to results announced last week by scientists in the US and Slovenia who detected the virus in samples from other babies with microcephaly.
On Monday, a team at the PUC-Parana University in the south of Brazil also announced to have found the virus in tissues taken from babies with microcephaly who died after birth.
Still, uncertainty about what, exactly, has been causing microcephaly has left the door open for conspiracy theorists. A group of South American physicians called the Crop-Sprayed Villages issued a report arguing that microcephaly can be linked to the use of an insecticide called pyroproxyfen that has allegedly been used on drinking water reservoirs in areas hardest hit by microcephaly cases. According to the report:
Malformations detected in thousands of children from pregnant women living in areas where the Brazilian state added pyriproxyfen to drinking water is not a coincidence, even though the Ministry of Health places a direct blame on Zika virus for this damage, while trying to ignore its responsibility and ruling out the hypothesis of direct and cumulative chemical damage caused by years of endocrine and immunological disruption of the affected population. Doctors from the Brazilian Association for Collective Health (ABRASCO) demand that urgent epidemiological studies taking into account this causal link be carried out, especially when among 3,893 cases of malformations confirmed until January 20, 2016, 49 children have died and only five of them were confirmed to have been infected with Zika(1).
However, an immunologist named Tirumalai Kamala pushed back against those claims. She wrote that two different reports show evidence of Zika in the placenta and brains of fetuses from miscarriages and from children born with microcephaly to mothers that have been diagnosed with Zika, which should leave little doubt.
Also, the Crop-Sprayed Villages theory doesn’t hold up to scientific review, Kamala wrote:
- A larvicide used to kill Aedes aegypti larvae, pyriproxifen is sprayed all the time. Why then did microcephaly arise in a relatively small proportion of children and why did it only start to show up from ~Dec 2015 when pyriproxifen’s been sprayed in Brazil at least through all of 2014 and 2015?
- Brazil’s health authorities mention the link with the 1st trimester of pregnancy. If larvicide causes microcephaly, gestation period shouldn’t matter. There seems to be no obvious connection between larvicide spray and 1st trimester of pregnancy.
- OTOH, for a virus, especially for one with apparently newly developed neurtropism, early stage of pregnancy would be a window of opportunity to make its way past a not-yet-fully formed placenta and infect the developing fetal brain.
- After all, the observed Guillain–Barré syndrome during the 2013 French Polynesian outbreak fits with a newly developed neurotropic propensity for Zika.
- Molecular studies show Zika has clearly changed considerably during its recent journey through Asia after it came out of Africa.
Pyriproxyfen has been widely used and studied around the world (including in the U.S.). If the chemical was truly behind microcephaly, a jump in cases would be reported everywhere, not just concentrated in northern Brazil.
Given all that, we’re ruling claims that the Zika virus is a hoax as “fiction.”