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Doctors Say That Pesticide, Not Zika Virus True Cause of Microcephaly in Brazil





The world began to notice the seemingly harmless Zika Virus infection in 2015 when the Brazilian state of Pernambuco declared an emergency in April 2015 due to thousands of babies being born with microcephaly. Initial investigations linked the cases to mothers being infected with Zika virus during their pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the neighboring country of Colombia reported that at least 3,000 pregnant women were infected with Zika in their country, but not a single baby born to those mothers manifested with microcephaly. Other data from the Asian and African regions where Zika is first discovered, reported no such cases before too.

So the question still remains, is it really Zika virus that is causing the condition in Brazil? Or is there something else behind the mysterious rise of microcephaly?

The Speculations

An Argentine doctor, Dr. Sandra Mattos and her team as well as an epidemiologist from Europe, Dr. Christoph Zink; are studying the phenomenon independently. Upon mapping of cases and looking at other possible factors, the researchers are seeing a different cause for the microcephaly cases: the insecticide Pyriproxyfen.

The Findings

The investigation yielded some preliminary facts as follows:

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Fact 1: There is an underreporting of neonatal microcephaly in Brazil since 2012.

In a bid to find the association between Zika and microcephaly, Dr. Mattos traced back data on babies’ head circumference data in Paraiba and Pernambuco in the last four years. “We were very, very surprised… borderline cases seem to be present all along,” she said.


Source: NBC News

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Fact 2: The microcephaly cases became apparent in late 2014 and in 2015

The data that Dr. Mattos collected showed that the increase in severe microcephaly cases started emerging in October and November 2014, and had been recognized as a full-blown and widespread microcephaly problem in Pernambuco in 2015. Coincidentally the government officials in Pernambuco reportedly added the insecticide Pyriproxyfen into the drinking water reservoir tank in Pernambuco to kill off mosquito larvae in mid-2014.

Government officials placing a few drops of insecticide in household water reservoirs

Government officials placing a few drops of insecticide in household water reservoirs

Source: Daily Star

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Fact 3: The effects of Pyriproxyfen against mosquitoes are similar to microcephaly in human babies

Pyriproxyfen is classified as a potent mosquito larvicide. Its effects on mosquito larvae include retardation of the larvae growth by preventing the proper growth of mosquito anatomy such as wings and genitalia. Mosquito larvae are laid in stagnant water and grows as an adult in a few days. Mass killing of larvae by putting the insecticide in water supply has been the solution of the Brazilian government in 2014.

Pyriproxyfen, the insecticide made by Sumitomo and Monsanto companies that is being linked to microcephaly

Pyriproxyfen, the insecticide made by Sumitomo and Monsanto companies that is being linked to microcephaly

Source: Daily Star

More than one-third of all the reported microcephaly cases in Brazil are confined to the North Eastern state of Pernambuco

Coincidence or Truth?

Several studies are now underway using animal models to prove the associations between Zika and microcephaly. Toxicological studies of the different pesticides used in Brazil, especially Pyriproxyfen are being suggested. According to Dr. Zink,

“I would ask my toxicological colleagues in Brazil to please look very closely into the practical application of agrochemicals in their country”

Meanwhile, since research has not yet confirmed the direct link of Zika and microcephaly, this is what WHO director Dr. Margaret Chan has to say about the problem,

“Although a causal link between Zika infection in pregnancy and microcephaly — and I must emphasize — has not been established, the circumstantial evidence is suggestive and extremely worrisome”

As long as there is no direct answer yet to this pressing problem, precautions still would not hurt anyone. Perhaps Zika can really cause microcephaly, and the pesticides are aggravating the problem, and vice versa. We don’t know the whole picture yet and we have to wait until Science proves all these speculations first.

But we should not wait on protecting ourselves. Prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes, engaging in sexual contact in affected states and avoid traveling with Zika outbreak especially for pregnant women. Avoid exposure from highly potent chemicals and insecticides while pregnant too.

Sources: Japan Times, CBC News, Daily Star, Tech Times

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