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Oh, myyyy! George Takei falls for a Zika virus conspiracy theory

It really sucks when a celebrity you like and admire screws up. Before social media, you might never have known whether stars were prone to bouts of excessive credulity when it comes to medicine, conspiracy theories, the paranormal, or whatever. Twenty years ago, for instance, few might ever have known that Jenny McCarthy was into “indigo child woo” or rabidly antivaccine, falling hard for the scientifically discredited concept that vaccines cause autism. That’s just one example.

Of course, some people, celebrity or not, are just prone to conspiracy belief. Unfortunately, sometimes people who have a better track record also screw up. In this case, I’m referring to George Takei, who rose to fame as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman for the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. He’s someone I’ve always liked and more recently admired for his activism. True fact: I saw him at a Star Trek convention in Cleveland about 26 years ago, where, as part of his talk he off-handedly recommended a restaurant where he had dined the night before the convention. When I met the woman who is now my wife and asked her out on a first date, I took her to that restaurant. So you could say that Takei had a bit of a role in my impressing the woman whom I ended up marrying.

In recent years, Takei has gained prominence as a gay rights activist and icon, as well as a social media juggernaut, with 1.8 million followers on Twitter and 9.5 million Likes on Facebook (including me). He also has a major presence on Tumblr and Instagram.

Yesterday, I was disturbed to see this pop up on my Facebook feed:

Say it ain't so, George! Say you aren't falling for an obvious Zika virus conspiracy theory!
Say it ain’t so, George! Say you aren’t falling for an obvious Zika virus conspiracy theory!

Here’s the article: Zika virus not to blame: Doctors cite man-made cause for birth defect epidemic.

Uh-oh.

Unfortunately, my fears upon reading the title to this article were not unfounded:

The Zika virus has been blamed for thousands of cases of the birth defect microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with severely shrunken heads and brain damage. But now a medical organization is challenging that connection, saying that the chemical larvicide Pyriproxyfen is instead to blame.

The Argentine organization Doctors in the Crop-Sprayed Towns says that most affected children live in areas in which the chemical was added in 2014 to local drinking water in an attempt to control mosquito populations. The larvicide is used to create malformations in mosquito larvae, in order to impair their development and reproductive abilities. Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese strategic partner of Monsanto.

“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,” said the doctors.

Monsanto. It just had to be Monsanto. I will give these cranks props for figuring out a way to blame Monsanto for the microcephaly suspected to be caused by Zika virus without mentioning GMOs. Well played, Second Nexus, well-played. Not so well-played, Mr. Takei. Not so well-played in falling for this.

Unfortunately, it was even worse-played when Mr. Takei responded to criticisms that he was falling for a conspiracy theory:

Is it irresponsible to even raise the question? Here is a link to the report. Surely it warrants further investigation? http://www.reduas.com.ar/…/Informe-Zika-de-Reduas_TRAD.pdf

This is what we in the skeptic biz like to call JAQing off (just asking questions)? As I like to say: Questions are not bad, but when they are built on a premise of pseudoscience they can lead one astray. But what about this report? In this case, what we’re seeing is yet another example of leaping to infer causation from correlation, just as I discussed last week when antivaccinationists noted that in 2014 the Brazilian Ministry of Health also started recommending that pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine between weeks 27 and 36 of pregnancy. The result has been a whole boatload of antivaccine conspiracies blaming the increase in microcephaly on the Tdap vaccination. One can’t help but wonder what else the Brazilian Ministry of Health did in 2014 that cranks can blame microcephaly on.

Each case is different, though; so let’s take a look at this particular claim. First off, what is Pyriproxyfen? Basically, it’s a pesticide that is effective against a wide variety of arthropoda (which includes insects and spiders). Specifically, it’s a a juvenile hormone analog that prevents insect larvae from developing into adulthood and thus renders them unable to reproduce. It was introduced into the US in 1996 to protect crops against the whitefly.

Now here’s the thing. It’s not as though pyriproxyfen hasn’t been well studied. The WHO even has a web page with its guidelines for pyriproxifen in drinking water. A great deal is known about its physiochemical properties, toxicology, and safe levels. Specifically, the WHO recommends that the dosage of pyriproxyfen in potable water in containers should not exceed 0.01 mg/L under the WHO Pesticides Evaluation Scheme. More specifically:

Pyriproxyfen was not genotoxic in an adequate range of tests for mutagenicity and cytogenicity in vitro and in vivo. JMPR concluded that pyriproxyfen is not genotoxic.

The reproductive toxicity of pyriproxyfen in rats has been investigated in a two- generation study, a study involving treatment of males and females before and in the early stages of gestation (segment 1) and a study of treatment during the prenatal and lactation periods (segment 3). The NOAEL for maternal toxicity was 1000 mg/kg, equivalent to 98 mg/kg of body weight per day, in the two-generation study and 100 mg/kg of body weight per day in the segment 3 study. Reproductive toxicity was observed only in the segment 3 study, in which there was an increased number of stillbirths in the F0 generation and a reduction in the number of implantations and in the mean number of live fetuses in the F1 generation at 500 mg/kg of body weight per day. The NOAEL for reproductive toxicity was 300 mg/kg of body weight per day. No reproductive toxicity was observed in the two-generation study, the NOAEL being 5000 mg/kg, equivalent to 340 mg/kg of body weight per day, the highest dose tested, or in the segment 1 study, the NOAEL being 1000 mg/kg of body weight per day, the highest dose tested.

NOAEL refers to “no-observed-adverse-effect level,” and these are some pretty high levels compared to what is permitted. Indeed, the maximum recommended dosage of 0.01 mg/L is equivalent to less than 1% of the upper limit of the acceptable daily intake.

It goes beyond that, though. In a Quora post, an immunologist named Tirumalai Kamala lays out several other pieces of evidence that make a link between pyriproxyfen and microcephaly highly unlikely. For example:

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?

And:

Such widespread use in so many countries begs the question why microcephaly link wouldn’t have shown up in any of those countries in all the years it’s been used there. Of course, dose may well be a factor if much higher doses were used in Brazil. If dose is a determining factor, it still doesn’t explain why microcephaly didn’t show up earlier since usage goes back years, not a few months.

I would also add that Brazil would have to have been using truly massive doses to exceed the acceptable daily intake, not to mention that humans do not make or use sesquiterpenoid hormones (a.k.a. insect juvenile hormones), which is what pyriproxifen targets. Finally, one can’t help but notice that Doctors in the Crop-Sprayed Towns is anything but an objective group. It’s been around at least since 2010, and its message has always been the same dating back to 2010: That pesticides cause spontaneous abortions, infertility, congenital malformations, and a wide variety of disorders. In other words, this is a biased report from a biased group presenting no evidence to back up its conclusions. It’s all speculation based on a fear of pesticides.

Then there’s the fact that the entire conspiracy-laden analysis by this group completely ignores two very important pieces of evidence, that MMWR report of Zika virus in fetuses with microcephaly and the New England Journal of Medicine case report published last week. This report describes the case of a 25 year old previously healthy European woman in Ljubljana, Slovenia who had worked as a volunteer in Natal, the capital of Rio Grande Do Norte state in Brazil since December 2013. She became pregnant near the end of February 2015 and became ill during her estimated 13th week of gestation with a high fever, a rash, musculoskeletal pain, and eye pain. Infection with Zika virus was suspected, but no diagnostic testing was performed. Ultrasound at 14 and 20 weeks showed normal fetal growth and anatomy. The patient ultimately returned to Europe around her 28th week, and a 29 week ultrasound examination showed fetal anomalies. Another ultrasound at 32 weeks showed intrauterine growth retardation, a head circumference less than the second percentile for gestation, along with abnormalities of the brain, including calcifications. The pregnancy was terminated, and the fetus showed prominent microcephaly, with almost complete agyria (lack of the normal folds on the surface of the brain). Other abnormalities included inflammation and evidence of of a viral infection in the neurons.

A detailed family history failed to find any genetic syndromes, and other causes of microcephaly were ruled out. The brain tissue was subjected to next generation sequencing, and:

A complete ZIKV genome sequence (10,808 nucelotides) was recovered from brain tissue. Phylogenetic analysis showed the highest identity (99.7%) with the ZIKV strain isolated from a patient from French Polynesia in 2013 (KJ776791) and ZIKV detected in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 2015 (KU321639), followed by a strain isolated in Cambodia in 2010 (JN860885, with 98.3% identity) and with a strain from the outbreak in Micronesia in 2007 (EU545988, with 98% identity).

And:

The complete genome sequence of ZIKV that was recovered in this study is consistent with the observation that the present strain in Brazil has emerged from the Asian lineage. The presence of two major amino acid substitutions positioned in nonstructural proteins NS1 and NS4B probably represents an accidental event or indicates a process of eventual adaptation of the virus to a new environment. Further research is needed to better understand the potential implications of these observations.

In other words, the virus isolated from this microcephalic fetus appears to have come from Asia. It also appears to have two mutations in nonstructural proteins, the significance of which are unknown. Again, this is not slam-dunk evidence that Zika virus causes microcephaly, given that it’s only one case. (For instance, something else could have caused the microcephaly and at the same time made the fetal brain more susceptible to infection.) Even so, it adds to the accumulation of evidence linking Zika virus to microcephaly. So the claim of these doctors that it’s not the Zika virus causing microcephaly is looking less and less plausible as more evidence comes in. Has it been proven with slam dunk evidence that Zika virus is causing microcephaly in Brazil? No, but the evidence linking the two appears to be getting stronger.

So, Mr. Takei, let’s talk.

There are lots of conspiracy theories out there. There’s lots of pseudoscience out there. Whenever something like the Zika virus makes it into the news, you can be absolutely sure that conspiracy theories based on pseudoscience will inevitably follow. That’s why it’s so critical to do a little research before sharing something like this. When you have such an enormous social media platform, you owe it to your fans not to use it to spread misinformation like this.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

177 replies on “Oh, myyyy! George Takei falls for a Zika virus conspiracy theory”

The saying “Never meet your heroes” needs to be updated to reflect our modern age:

“Never read your heroes’ tweets”.

I saw mr Takeis link – he is very prolific on Facebook.

I skimmed the article, but seeing the throwaway line
“Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese strategic partner of Monsanto.”
Raised my hackles.

Unfortunately, I heard the same theory being cited @ prn.fm.

Oh George really.

In other news..
Jenny herself has a show on satellite radio called ‘Dirty, Sexy, Funny’ or suchlike. She must be continuing with anti-vax since she had Kim Stagliano as a guest.

You could write a book (and someone probably already has) about the human tendency to blamed disease outbreaks on whatever external forces one fears/hates in general.

Looking at the history of the Black Death, conspiracy-shouters of the time blamed a variety of causes including licentious behavior, Jews and even climate change:

“…the ancients, most notably Hippocrates, are agreed that if the four seasons run awry, and do not keep their proper course, then plagues and mortal passions are engendered that year.”

http://ericmarcarelli.com/the-medieval-understanding-of-the-black-plague/

We can’t just have infectious agents mutating and causing disease outbreaks with previously unseen causes and distribution. THEY must have done it!

*of course natural disease outbreaks are especially unacceptable to antivaxers, because they highlight the seriousness of infectious diseases, and often result in vaccines being seen in a favorable light.

@ Dangerous Bacon:

Sure. Fraser writes about witchcraft as the cause of death prior to general belief in naturalistic causes:
briefly, life is understood as the action of another being upon or within the person or animal ( as a soul) if animation ceases it must be because that soul was removed by another being from without.

I liken some woo theories about ASDs/ mental illness to this:
no one has these conditions because of internal causes
( genetics) but something external ( vaccines, toxins, imperfect diet, whatever) caused the condition and thus, external cures ( diet, chelation, supplements etc) work.

I just saw that Monsanto put out a statement to refute this particular conspiracy theory….although that won’t satisfy the hard-core nuts.

Similarly:

Mike Adams ( audio podcast today, Natural News)
DOCTORS and NURSES cause illness and death therefore, avoid them or protect yourself !
( also- Death by Medicine- Null et al)

At least Takei properly identifies Sumitomo as a “strategic partner” of Monsanto, whereas the doc from the docs identifies Sumimoto (sic, in the text, properly in the list of references) as a subsidiary of Monsanto.
The parroting of the doc’s doc has been an interesting demonstration of how incompetent the inforwarrior and “do your own reasearch” types are at actually doing even the most trivial of so-called research.

Yeah, that’s unfortunate. And you know, it’s incredibly irresponsible to cast baseless claims on something that might help control mosquitoes at this time. That’s putting people at risk for more bites.

Oh, for skeptics, there’s also a good response from experts on this today: https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/expert-reaction-is-a-pesticide,-not-zika-virus,-causing-microcephaly [escaping the link hoping not to get put into moderation.]

PS: Orac–people that I have sent over here are complaining to me about the spirochete item that appears on posts here lately. NSFW: http://screencast.com/t/e1dqi77Gs2zH Is it possible to suppress that?

I think you’re being a little harsh, Orac. The “larvacide theory” isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s an alternative hypothesis, one that doesn’t match as many observations as the Zika hypothesis, but there are many chemicals that are potentially teratogenic. It’s not outlandish, and the fact that Monsanto is involved in its manufacture is simply because they’re one of a handful of companies that make chemicals for environmental use.

So long as we suspend judgment until sufficient evidence is presented, I can’t fault people for questioning. Given the distribution of traits that fall under microcephaly, I’m not convinced that this is going to be simple causation; and it may be that combinations of risk factors (diet, stress, cofactor and Zika) will produce the outcome in question.

In the early days of HIV/AIDS, questioning the virus hypothesis wasn’t denialism because so much was still not known. It was the refusal to accept evidence, even after it was confirmed multiple times, that marked people like Peter Duesberg as dogmatic pseudoscientists.

I was a low-level intern at the Texas Dept. of Health back in 1992 (I carried a clipboard door to door, if that gives you the right mental picture). We investigated a case series of NTD/anencephalies, babies born without brain structures, along the Texas-Mexico border. The working theory at the time was that the opening of factories on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande in anticipation of NAFTA, enacted in late 1993, produced contamination of well water with heavy metals. Heavy metal toxicology is a known, clear risk for neural tube defects.

What was actually found was a complex system of nutrition, disease, stress, lack of medical care, and exposure to corn mold. The TDH started a birth defects registry that included a mandate to monitor birth defect clusters. Since the 1991/92 investigation, there have been at least 30 reported NTD clusters investigated, most of them in the same region, the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

What I’m trying to say here is that a healthy skepticism (here defined as suspension of drawing conclusions) is a good thing. Zika may not be acting alone, and the introduction of a larvacide, while on its own is not sufficient, could still be a component cause in disease.

I’m certainly not an anti-Monsanto type of person, but I just wanted to point out that the “Big 6” pesticide manufacturers make up 68% of the world’s supply of pesticides. Syngenta at 18%, Bayer at 17%, Monsanto at 10%, Dow and BASF tied at 9%… In 2013, Monsanto made a failed attempt to buy Syngenta for 40 billion USD, which would have given them roughly 1/3rd of the world pesticide market. As I understand it, both parties are trying to revive the process, to the chagrin of federal regulators.

it’s not surprising that any given chemical used to control pests is being made by Monsanto. They’re not evil, they’re just huge.

Did you read the actual report? Seriously, did you read it? Did you investigate the group issuing it?

No one says questioning is a bad thing, but this report screams conspiracy theory with Monsanto products being used and the government covering it up by blaming the problem on something else (Zika virus). It is very much like several other conspiracy theories I have seen. Asking questions is fine, but if you’re going to do it based on a report like this then you deserve the criticism you get for making assertions that don’t even have biological plausibility based on what we know.

I stand by every word (even the typos, which I will get around to fixing).

@Orac

I must apologize, I had not read the actual statement, just the reporting on it, until your link. It is ghastly, and frankly laughable. I see it delves into politics and some bizarre recapitulation theory a la biogenetic law.

I retract my objection that you are being too harsh in classifying this as conspiracy theory. I can smell the tinfoil hats through my monitor.

I have another item that might help people who find themselves in chatter on this larvacide issue. http://afludiary.blogspot.com/2016/02/brazil-moh-addresses-larvacide-debate.html

Unlike the relationship between the Zika virus and microcephaly, which has had its confirmation attested in tests that indicated the presence of the virus in samples of blood, tissue and amniotic fluid, the association between the use of pyriproxifen and microcephaly has no scientific basis. Importantly, some localities that do not use pyriproxifen were also reported cases of microcephaly.

This is the third time I’ve seen microcephaly referred to as “shrunken heads”. Ack! Are these idiots just stupid or being knowingly offensive? (Offensive to the children involved due to their ignorance of the anthropological literature on “shrunken heads”, thus turning the term into an insult–kind of like “cavemen” or “savage”).

I’m really glad I stumbled over this blogpost! I also came across this conspiracy theory – but unlike all the hysterical nonsense about out-of-control genetically altered mosquito experiments,bioweapons testing and vaccination plots which are pretty easy to throw out the window, this one – taking the actual report and how it is written not into account for a moment – did make some sense. Pesticides or insecticides are some serious stuff after all and at least I would not knowingly plunge my cup into contaminated drinking water and happly gulp it down, even if I am told that it is totally harmless. So it could have been a factor indeed – an alternative hypothesis as c0nc0rdance mentioned.

It is also not too far fetched to assume the Ministry of Health in Brazil, a country that is regularily rated to be one of the most corrupt countries in the Americas on Corruption Indices, would try to cover up some irresponsible practice of dumping tons of pesticides into the water supply, triggering just another environmental scandal. Things like that happened before. Or Monsanto (or whatever company is selling the stuff) trying to avoid the classaction-avalanche that would probaly roll over them if anything like a microcephaly-epidemic could be blamed on their product. (Although, on second thought, it would have been a pretty stupid cover up-plan, if you inform the WHO about the situation and call for international help.)

I was lucky though. I did not come in contact with the thing through George Takeis tweet or some newssite reporting about it, but through a post of a professional, die-hard old-school conspiracy theorist, who glady took that report up and incorporating it into his grand conspiracy moasic of depopulation plots, big pharma vaccination schemes, mainstream media deceiving campaigns and the WHO spreading fear on purpose – Slogan: The Zika virus is clearly a hoax – look, even doctors say there might be another perfect explanation for it!!!” – and providing a link to a report about the report. Well, so far, so fishy. Still, as I said, it did sound not too way off somehow, even if anything that might disprove the new “hypothesis” (like mentioning that it is just that) was left out …and I mean, it came from a board of doctors after all. I was not convinced, but also not sure. Or in other words: My knowledge about the subject was not good enough to simply dismiss the thing as another wild outbreak from the fringe. And then I stumbled over this article. Thanks Scienceblog and Orac, for providing assistance. Keep up the good work! 🙂

PS: I do not know what else George Takei is tweeting when the day is long. But I think I’ll forgive him this time. Maybe he was just feeling like I did. Unfortunately without doing some research of his own before trumpeting out “the news”. But in that he is certainly not the only one.

@ Denice Walter

[quoting Mike Adams] DOCTORS and NURSES cause illness and death therefore, avoid them

Eh, people who are sick are usually spending time in close proximity to one healthcare worker or another. Stand to reason they are somehow responsible.

Adams reminds me a bit of Junior Postmaster Tolliver Groats, from Terry Pratchett’s novel Going Postal.*
Does anyone know if Mike is pouring sulfur in his socks and charcoal down his pants? Just in case, keep him away from open flames.

* Except that Tolliver is more funny, and also a lot more honest.

I’m really glad I stumbled over this blogpost! I also came across this conspiracy theory – but unlike all the hysterical nonsense about out-of-control genetically altered mosquito experiments,bioweapons testing and vaccination plots which are pretty easy to throw out the window, this one – taking the actual report and how it is written not into account for a moment – did make some sense. Pesticides or insecticides are some serious stuff after all and at least I would not knowingly plunge my cup into contaminated drinking water and happly gulp it down, even if I am told that it is totally harmless. So it could have been a factor indeed – an alternative hypothesis as c0nc0rdance mentioned.

It is also not too far fetched to assume the Ministry of Health in Brazil, a country that is regularily rated to be one of the most corrupt countries in the Americas on Corruption Indices, would try to cover up some irresponsible practice of dumping tons of pesticides into the water supply, triggering just another environmental scandal. Things like that happened before. Or Monsanto (or whatever company is selling the stuff) trying to avoid the classaction-avalanche that would probaly roll over them if anything like a microcephaly-epidemic could be blamed on their product. (Although, on second thought, it would have been a pretty stupid cover up-plan, if you inform the WHO about the situation and call for international help.)

I was lucky though. I did not come in contact with the thing through George Takeis tweet or some newssite reporting about it, but through a post of a professional, die-hard old-school conspiracy theorist, who glady took that report up and incorporating it into his grand conspiracy moasic of depopulation plots, big pharma vaccination schemes, mainstream media deceiving campaigns and the WHO spreading fear on purpose – Slogan: The Zika virus is clearly a hoax – look, even doctors say there might be another perfect explanation for it!!!” – and providing a link to a report about the report. Well, so far, so fishy. Still, as I said, it did sound not too way off somehow, even if anything that might disprove the new “hypothesis” (like mentioning that it is just that) was left out …and I mean, it came from a board of doctors after all. I was not convinced, but also not sure. Or in other words: My knowledge about the subject was not good enough to simply dismiss the thing as another wild outbreak from the fringe. And then I stumbled over this article. Thanks Scienceblog and Orac, for providing assistance. Keep up the good work! 🙂

PS: I do not know what else George Takei is tweeting when the day is long. But I think I’ll forgive him this time. Maybe he was just feeling like I did. Unfortunately without doing some research of his own before trumpeting out “the news”. But in that he is certainly not the only one.

@ Mary M

That’s putting people at risk for more bites.

I believe you know this, but just to be clear for the casual reader:
Down there in South America, mosquitoes are vectors of various nasty diseases. Malaria is a good example; just 3 generations back, mosquitoes and malaria were also an issue for us privileged Europeans and North Americans.
So yeah, there are some good reasons to want to keep mosquito populations in low numbers.

@Lawrence: Yes, that it would be. Do not try to convince some conspiracy theorist with that one. I have to say that it has a bit of an unfortunate title though. “The truth about Monsanto and the Zika virus” almost sounds like as if it was written by conspiracy theorists themselves.

Every time I see ‘shrunken heads’ it reminds me of my childhood visits to the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford. We always rushed to look at the shrunken heads before we looked at anything else.

Golly, Lawrence #16.

Plantiff: Monsanto murdered our children.

Defendant: No I (corporate personhood status) didn’t. Nor did I do anything outside the law when I ‘modified’ all those people in Anniston, Alabama…

I’ve still not stopped pointing my finger at Dow and those who have been flinging Dow’s Enlist Duo/w 2,4-d on everything and everybody pretty fast and furiously. It is purported to be ‘low volatility’. I don’t think that is a valid claim in a country as humid as Brazil; When the fog comes up and the wind is light, my bananna plants look like runny Salvador Dalis or streaky, water-damaged, water-color Van Goghs.

In the near future, we may well here Monsanto declare “I didn’t do it this time; Dow did.”

@Lawrence: Yes, that it would. Do not try to convince some old-school conspiracy theorist with that one. 😀 I think that it uses a bit of an unfortunate title though. “The truth about Monsanto and the Zika virus” sounds exactly like something conspiracy theorists would choose as a headline for their own message. Maybe “Some facts about Monsanto and the Zika virus” or similiar would have been better? Less sensationalistic at least. Too many “truths” flying around out there trying to get sold already. Just my opinion, of course.

Sorry for the double posts 23 and 27. The first took so long that I thought it to be lost or rejected for some reason.

humans do not make or use sesquiterpenoid hormones (a.k.a. insect juvenile hormones), which is what pyriproxifen targets.

Is that the case for *all* stages of human development? I note the eidonomy of stages 12-15 of embryonic development. There certainly is an outward *appearance* of mosquito larvae-like features.

https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Embryonic_Development#Week_4

If it bears out that proteins of genetically modified organisms survive digestion and are incorporated into the developing fetus, as some contend, can it be said for certain that there is not some extra impetus for epigenetic expression of this additional code?

A chemically synthesised ceropin B gene, usually found in the giant silk moth (Hyalophora cecropia), has been introduced into tomato plants and in vivo studies show significant resistance to bacterial wilt and bacterial spot.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_tomato#Pest_resistance

Approved, or not; Who knows what actual ‘escaped’ genetic copywright is flying around down there — I hear that Seth Brundle was particulary well welcomed within most all Brazilian brothels. Just sayin’.

A bit off topic but Dr. McCoy should be immortalized here at RI.:

In Star Trek II (The Wrath of Khan) the conversation goes:

James T. Kirk: [still suffering from the vaccine] My mouth is itchy. Is that normal?

Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy: Well, those symptoms won’t last long. I’m going to give you a mild sedative.

James T. Kirk: Oh, I wish I didn’t know you.

Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy: Don’t be such an infant.
[He jabs Kirk with a hypodermic needle]

James T. Kirk: OWW! How long’s it supposed to…
[he suddenly collapses on the bed]

Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy: [Shaking his head] Unbelievable.

http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0001514/quotes

Richthofen, comments by new people are held in moderation for a while as a way to reduce spam. After the first is approved you are good to go as long as you do not change names or email.

Chris says (#31),

…comments by new people are held in moderation for a while as a way to reduce spam. After the first is approved you are good to go as long as you do not change names or email.

MJD says,

Furthermore, if your passionate and persistent about vaccine safety Orac may place you on instant moderation.

@Orac,

Please release me from the “instant moderation” brig.

After the first is approved you are good to go as long as you do not change names or email.

Not entirely true, Chris #31… After one gets on some kind of *probation* here, even if it wasn’t racist bile, there is never any getting off automatic moderate which sometimes delays a comment for the most part of a day or two.

DW, #5:
Sure. Fraser writes about witchcraft as the cause of death prior to general belief in naturalistic causes:
Don’t forget Evans-Pritchard!

“…if, in fact, any failure or misfortune falls upon any one at any time and in relation to any of the manifold activities of his life it may be due to witchcraft.”

It is fortunate that everyone in the modern world has left those primitive patterns of thought long behind.

[…] We also need to realize that pesticides aren’t inherently bad. They’re simply tools to help us enjoy food that’s not infested with bugs. There are guidelines for utilizing pesticides that are established based upon thorough scientific research so they can be responsibly used. You can read up more about the research done on this specific pesticide and several other reasons Tech Times assumption is not fact here. […]

MJD @32

If you can’t tell the difference between the original series/movies and the JJ Abrams version, there’s no hope for you.

Claiming to be from Iowa obviously did not help you distinguish between DeForest Kelly and Karl Urban.

Perhaps you should actually watch the films before attempting to quote them.

P.S. MjD @ 32
I’d wager both William Shatner and the late Ricardo Montalban have a bone to pick with you as well.

For shame.

@Chemmomo (#41, #43),

My apologies 🙂

@Orac,

Since I’m on automatic moderate, and if you have the time, could you please check the accuracy of my posts henceforth?

I’d do it for you if our situations were reversed.

@Gilbert:

humans do not make or use sesquiterpenoid hormones (a.k.a. insect juvenile hormones), which is what pyriproxifen targets.

Is that the case for *all* stages of human development?

You are lucky! That information is available to you for free on the Internet! Just go to one of the several available genome databases, and look up the sequence of the insect juvenile hormone of your choice. Then run a homolog search to see if there are any similar genes in humans. If you are, you can then search to find out where and when they are expressed.

Have fun!

If it bears out that proteins of genetically modified organisms survive digestion

*sigh*, what possible mechanism could the proteases use to distinguish that the proteins were translated from RNA that was transcribed by DNA that was inserted using genetic engineering techniques many copies before so that they would know not to catabolize them?

and are incorporated into the developing fetus, as some contend,

Now they’re given superpowers to cross the placental barrier as well? Whoever is contending this should take a freshman biology course.

can it be said for certain that there is not some extra impetus for epigenetic expression of this additional code?

Additional code? Proteins are not code for anything. Some proteins play epigentic roles, but not ones that we splice into things, and if proteins from things we ate or were exposed to environmentally could get through all the barriers to the inside of the nucleus and cause problems they would have done so long before we invented genetic engineering.

I’m actually very concerned about Zika. I, and both my kids, have significant reaction to mosquito bites. And have had complications with them, this virus (and several others like EEE and west nile) worries me.

The very nature of vaccines is to meddle with, and trigger, the bodies immune system. 1 hamburger is safe, but if you ate a dozen at once, your stomach would probably rupture.

You say no mice had “no-observed-adverse-effect level”, but did not state whether microcephaly had an adequate metric.

Equally you did not say that there had been signs of microcephali in mice infected with Zika, so it can only be assumed to be presumed.

If there is a cause other than Zika, the compensation claims (and rep) would destroy a large company. Motive enough, for several people to break the law, or bend it a little, here and there.

@ justthestats

Whoever is contending this should take a freshman biology course.

Seconded.
Spock, Sulu & co were much better at speaking technobabble.

if proteins from things we ate or were exposed to environmentally could get through all the barriers to the inside of the nucleus and cause problems

I would suggest people worried about this sort of thing to stop eating carrots. With all the bits of carrot proteins stuck in their innards, they may start to attract killer rabbits.

BA — the greater of your concern probably won’t be the virus, but of developing Guillian-Barre which is uncommon, about 1-2 cases per 100,000 per year. But, if you have a hypersensitive immune-mediated predisposition, maybe more to your point. Majority of adults cases in general are self-resolving with supportive care, but not all. About 4-5% adults still die despite adequate intensive supportive care, obviously a worse prognostic factor is becoming ventilator dependent. Kids actually do a bit better than adults in recovery.

The biggest preventative is avoiding Aedes environments, and following personal protection guidelines if in/traveling into that environment. Discussion with your health care provider and reviewing info on the CDC website (or similar agency if in another country than the States).

They’re all wrong. Chemtrails are a lie. What they thought was a cloud of poison is really a cloud of infected Anopheles mosquitoes.
I warned them, but they wouldn’t listen. They called me a madman, but I knew the real truth! Fools! Now they’ll pay! They’ll suffer and die but I won’t raise a hand to help them!
Oh, hold on, they’re coming around with the meds. I hope today I get the pink one. I love the pink one. It makes me feel so floaty.

Importantly, some localities that do not use pyriproxifen were also reported cases of microcephaly.

I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s been quite unclear to me that Brazil even uses PPF for urban mosquito abatement (it’s not mentioned here) rather than as an agrochemical. Any pesticide hypothesis would seem to have be able to connect with the favelas. (Brazil does seem to have pretty good coverage of prenatal care, but I’d have to dig that one back up. Maybe after I finally have coffee.)

The very nature of vaccines is to meddle with

Graham, you’re sounding like a Scoobie-Doo villain. “I’d have got away with all that morbidity and mortality, if it weren’t for you meddling scientists!”

While Mr. Takei’s post is verifiably BS, it’s important to remain open to the possibility that ZIKV and microcephaly might not be causally linked, at least not without some other confounding factors. This paper is still in open peer review, but raises significant questions about true rates of microcephaly in Brazil before and after 2015: http://www.who.int/bulletin/online_first/16-170639.pdf

Another open question: Why hasn’t Colombia seen an increase in microcephaly despite similar Zika infection?

Thanks for this. Now, I am off to email a news channel to issue a correction for their Zika conspiracy video.

I hope they actually bother to correct their video.

Re. appropriate dosage levels of insecticides:

This reminds me of the controversy over Nestle infant formula some decades ago. The formula itself was harmless, but when introduced to countries where contaminated drinking water was common and educational levels were low, two things happened: 1) Formula was prepared with dirty water, leading to infant illnesses, and 2) formula was diluted way beyond manufacturer’s recommendation, leading to infant malnutrition.

And, we all know the common layperson error of thinking that if a recommended dose of medicine is good, then a much higher dose must be “much better.”

So I’m wondering if it might be possible that insecticides that are ordinarily “safe and effective when used as directed” could have been misused, for example by accidentally or deliberately using much greater quantities than recommended.

I don’t buy into the crap that recommended dosage levels of insecticides are responsible for the observed levels of microcephaly. And I’m inclined to think that some of the heightened microcephaly stats might be due to heightened awareness and reporting. But it should be possible to test for insecticide levels in known reservoir organisms to ascertain if a high-dose event might have occurred at some point. If not, then that hypothesis can be put to rest.

Meanwhile, any efforts at mosquito control are always good: even if the microcephaly outbreak is 100% a reporting artifact, and Zika (etc.) have nothing to do with it, Dengue and chikungunya are sufficient reasons in and of themselves, for major mosquito control efforts.

Re. George Takei: CT runs and facts walk, so it will take some time to catch up with the effects of his falling for nonsense. But one way to go about this would be to make clear that he himself is not a public health scientist, and people should look to public health scientists for their information on Zika, the microcephaly outbreak, etc.

Re. Old Rockin’ Dave @51: Hah. Good one.

Microcephaly cases in Brazil predate Zika virus outbreak, study says
Cases may have been under-reported before the arrival of the virus
CBC News Posted: Feb 10, 2016 5:03 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 13, 2016 4:12 PM ET

@Joe on 56 — A couple possibilities, awareness/failure in reporting, and the virus hitting Brazil is a different mutation than what had been endemic to the region for decades. Your assumption of similar zika infection may not actually be the case. They could be different and possible we could see an increase. It would help to see other neural tissue in similar fetal/perinatal demise cases to find out if the mutated zikv is also found.

First, ORD gets many internets for his comment at #51.

Second: MJD: your Idee fixe has little or nothing to do with vaccine safety and everything to do with your own conspiracy theory about latex. Because you brought it up in season and out, you were placed on moderation. Please don’t try to convince new commentors that you are auto-moderation for any other reason but that.

Richthofen: Orac does not put people in moderation (except the new person first time approval needed moderation) lightly. MJD was warned multiple times and ignored the warning. Very few people have been banned from commenting here. Orac moderates with a very light hand.

Graham: “If there is a cause other than Zika, the compensation claims (and rep) would destroy a large company. Motive enough, for several people to break the law, or bend it a little, here and there.”

This is how we know that alt cancer cures (laetrile, Hoxsey, Rife etc.) actually work despite their having been “debunked”. The financial ruin that would strike the Cancer Industry is motive enough to influence the “science” involved.

Connect…the…dots………………………..dots…………………….dots……dots…………………………………………………………………dots…………………………………………………………dots……………………………………………………………………dots………………………………………………………………..

MI IDawn says (#63),

…conspiracy theory about latex.

MJD says,

It’s less a conspiracy and more an exposed racket.

Specifically, natural rubber latex used in the medical field (e.g., vaccine packaging, surgical gloves) can induce allergies which thereafter increase sales of allergy medication…enough said.

@Brian Deer,

Here’s a legitimate story to bring balance to investigative reporting on vaccine safety.

You are lucky! That information is available to you for free on the Internet!

Thx, justthestats #45. I did not know that.

can it be said for certain that there is not some extra impetus for epigenetic expression of this additional code?

I can’t believe I said that; Looking back, it does sound rather silly. However, I note that a search of “fish homolog human development”** might lend one to believe that we’re made up off all sorts of fishy bits which are expressed from time to time. Why, just this morning I was reading a DailyFail article whereby

scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered that the same network of genes that allow sharks to regrow teeth is present in humans.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3444505/Could-regrow-teeth-like-SHARKS-Humans-genes-used-predatory-fish-repeatedly-renew-gnashers.html

Pyriproxyfen is practically non-toxic to birds or mammals. It is highly toxic to fish and freshwater invertebrates, and very highly toxic to marine invertebrates. Freshwater fish reproduction is affected at low ppb concentrations. Freshwater invertebrate reproduction is affected at low part per trillion concentrations

http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/insect-mite/mevinphos-propargite/pyriproxyfen/esteem_mcl_0301.html

** http://www.google.com/search?q=fish+homolog+human+development

This reminds me of the controversy over Nestle infant formula some decades ago.

Nestle (and others of their ilk) continue to violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The initial controversy surfaced in the early 70s, but the dismal lack of ethics persists.

Since I’m on automatic moderate, and if you have the time, could you please check the accuracy of my posts henceforth?

While you’re at it, Orac, my front walk needs shoveling, as does my driveway. I’d do it for you if our situations were reversed.

While you’re out erranding for the minions, I’d also like to request a two-shot cafe mocha, no whip cream. Thanks Orac.

@MarkN, thanks for the info. I have kept up with CDC and WHO coverage. Not sure that I’m much comforted by it but it isn’t stopping me from travelling just being more careful. And make mine an espresso.

Gray Squirrel:

So I’m wondering if it might be possible that insecticides that are ordinarily “safe and effective when used as directed” could have been misused, for example by accidentally or deliberately using much greater quantities than recommended.

Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Certainly we know that’s happening with fertilizer in parts of the world where that has recently become available. China, for instance, has farmers using orders of magnitude more fertilizer than their fields require; it does them no good to put on more, but their parents grew up with a dismal hand-to-mouth existence, and so they will hedge every bet they can to make sure that their farms are as productive as humanly possible. I’d be stunned if the same thing doesn’t happen with pesticides.

1) Arthropods are not insects. Insects are arthropods.

2) Pseudoscience is saying that Zika Virus caused microencephaly without having done any scientific studies to show this.

3) Doctors are not scientists.

4) What is the historic correlation between microcephaly and the use of pyriproxyfen?

5) Where is the microcephaly in Columbia.

6) Science Blogs should hold itself to higher standards.

1. I know that. You caught a late night writing oversight. Congratulations. It happens sometimes when I’m in a hurry writing and don’t get back to proofread multiple times.

2. Except that there is reasonable scientific evidence to suspect that Zika virus does cause microcephaly, which I described and also pointed out that it wasn’t slam-dunk.

3. But I am a scientist as well as a surgeon. I have an MD and a PhD, have published original papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, and have been the PI on an R01 grant as well as several others

4. There has been none that we are aware of. That’s kind of the point.

5. Who knows?

6. New commenters should try not to make their first comments too embarrassing. Unfortunately, you failed.

re conspiracy theories..

After listening to about 10 minutes of Mikey’s latest audio at NaturalNews, I decided to look at his newly resurrected news target.com site: supposedly, he’ll keep NN about health and the other festering swamp about politics
HOWEVER I believe that he has difficulty separating categories because both are rife with political rants AND alt med nonsense.
It’s all about creating room for ads I imagine.

@ Patrick Cahel

5) Where is the microcephaly in Columbia.

I have another one for you:

7) Where is the microcephaly in Washington, DC?

Pyriproxyfen has been in use in the US since 1994.

7) Where is the microcephaly in Washington, DC?

Let us not stoop to cheap jokes about Congress.

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