The Zika virus has been declared a serious epidemic. The virus has been linked to a rise in severe birth defects, particularly microcephaly. However, two separate groups of doctors from Brazil and Argentina aren’t convinced, and suggest the congenital malformations may be the result of chemical pesticides in the drinking water rather than the mosquito borne illness.
The rise in birth defects was quickly attributed to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health, despite the fact that so far there has been no proven scientific link between the two. Microcephaly is a congenital birth defect where the infant’s head is much smaller than normal.
In 2014 the Brazilian Ministry of Health began adding an insecticide called pyriproxyfen to the drinking water of some areas in an effort to decrease the number of Zika-carrying Aedes mosquitoes.
A group called Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST) says that they believe it is this chemical which is responsible for the recent rise in birth defects, not the Zika virus.
According to the report by PCST, pyriproxyfen is sold under the name SumiLarv, and is manufactured by a subsidiary of Monsanto based in Japan.
Pyriproxyfen is a growth inhibitor of mosquito larvae, which alters the development process from larva to pupa to adult, thus generating malformations in developing mosquitoes and killing or disabling them. It acts as an insect juvenile hormone or juvenoid, and has the effect of inhibiting the development of adult insect characteristics (for example, wings and mature external genitalia) and reproductive development. It is an endocrine disruptor and is teratogenic (causes birth defects).
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,” according to the report by Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns.
PCST is not alone in their suspicions. The Brazilian Association for Collective Health (ABRASCO) published an open letter to the people of Brazil in January of 2016, questioning the science used to link the congenital malformations to the Zika virus so hastily.
According to ABRASCO, many other locations have suffered through Zika epidemics with no occurrences of birth defects, especially not those as severe as microcephaly.
Previous Zika epidemics did not cause birth defects in newborns, despite infecting 75% of the population in those countries. Also, in other countries such as Colombia there are no records of microcephaly; however, there are plenty of Zika cases.
The World Health Organization, although they have declared the Zika virus to be an epidemic, have been cautious not to link the virus to the incidences of birth defects directly, instead only the possible connection as “worrisome.”
Although a causal link between Zika infection in pregnancy and microcephaly has not, and I must emphasize, has not been established, the circumstantial evidence is suggestive and extremely worrisome.
The WHO has declared the Zika virus to be a “global health emergency” and scientists are struggling to find a vaccine. Meanwhile, the plan so far has been to increase the spraying of pesticides, something PCST strongly discourages in their report, citing not only their suspicions that the chemicals could actually be the cause of the birth defects, but also the fact that the insecticides have not reduced the number mosquitoes or the rapid spread of the Zika virus.
Although the suspicions these doctors have are far from conclusive, the possibility that the chemical pesticides are the cause of the increase in birth defects is definitely something that should be researched through scientific studies before the Zika virus is accepted as the cause without any real evidence to back it up, especially since the lives of children are at stake.
Featured image via video screen capture