Virus

Zika Virus Outbreak: Unleash the GMO Mosquitoes!

While we wait for a vaccine, GMO mosquitoes are here now to help control the outbreak.

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MicrocephalyChild
speroforum

Public health officials are warning pregnant women to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that might be carrying the Zika virus. They are concerned that the recent steep rise in cases of microcephaly in Brazil is linked to the virus. The number of cases in Brazil of this severe birth defect has increased from 150 in 2014 to nearly 4,000 in 2015. The overall rate is now around 1 in 1,000 births, but in some regions one to two percent of babies are born with the malady.

The Zika virus, like the chikungunya and West Nile viruses, originated in Africa and are now being chiefly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Until recently, Zika virus infections had been regarded as relatively mild causing joint pain and fever. Besides the association with microcephaly, Zika is also suspected of boosting the incidence of the paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Producing a vaccine would likely take three to five years, assuming that pharmaceutical companies could be persauded to undertake the effort. Vaccines rarely yield profits and expose companies to our dysfunctional liability system.

But there is another promising way to control Zika—control the mosquitoes that carry it and other diseases like dengue, malaria, chikungunya and West Nile virus. The biotechnology company Oxitec has created male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a gene that is lethal to their larval progeny. In fact, Oxitec has already shown considerable success in a pilot program in Brazil in which engineered autocidal mosquitoes reduced the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by more than 80 percent. Given this record, the city of Piracicaba is now contracting with the company to release their GMO mosquitoes to help reduce Zika virus infections.

FrankenMosquito
change.org

Oxitec is seeking to conduct a trial using its mosquitoes in Key West, but that proposal has been opposed by anti-biotech activists. It will be interesting to see how long that opposition lasts if there is a sustained outbreak of Zika virus there.

But even more promisingly, Oxitec's vector-control technology could be superseded by mosquitoes that have been gene-edited to resist infection by disease organisms in the first place. Last fall, researchers at the University of Missouri reported a proof of concept experiment in which they used the fantastic CRISPR gene-editing technique to create Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that would pass along disease resistance genes to all of their progeny

The horrible consequences of a Zika virus outbreak here might be enough for the public to sweep aside anti-biotech misinformation and embrace the GMO mosquito solution to disease contol.

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  1. The same people who are against all bio-tech are the same crew who jumped onto that mass-murdering bitch Rachel Carson’s bandwagon and banned DDT.

    If they won’t let DDT be used to control mosquito populations, what makes you think we will have success with Frankenbugs?

    1. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

      One of the greatest truths to ever be spoken in popular entertainment.

      1. “If they won’t let DDT be used to control mosquito populations, what makes you think we will have success with Frankenbugs?”

        Given that the DDT (not quite) ban has cost millions of lives, it’s a good bet that the luddites will trade thousands of deformed kids to keep the world ‘safe’ from Frankenbugs.

        1. They’ll probably celebrate them as “heroes”. Damn.

    2. DDT resistance probably would have rendered DDT not very useful at this point.

      1. But by then we would all be deaf! Didn’t you read Silent Spring?

    3. Isn’t DDT still used to control disease vectors? I though the ban was just on agricultural uses. And that probably has actually slowed the development of resistance, allowing it to be useful for longer in disease control.

      Carson was an overwrought fool, but I think “mass murdering” is a bit much.

      1. Isn’t DDT still used to control disease vectors?

        I’m sure it varies by country, but I seem to remember reading that it had recently been reintroduced on a trial basis in a few African countries to try to control malaria. I think its been a pretty global/total ban, but I can’t be arsed to research it.

        1. I was reading the Wikipedia article on DDT and it says that a number of countries stopped using it, saw their malaria rates go up, and went right back to using it.

          I think there is a lot of pressure from environmental groups or tied to aid to stop using DDT, and I’m sure that helps to increase malaria infections. But you still can’t blame them (or Rachel Carson) for every malaria death. I’m still somewhat impressed that it can be controlled or eradicated to the extent that it already has been without much worse environmental damage.

    4. DDT is toxic to people and birds. That’s why it was banned. If you want tits that badly, pay for implants.

      1. I don’t think DDT is toxic to people. It is probably toxic to birds but some argue the egg problem was due to lead or at least made worse by it. Those experiments should be repeated.

          1. Thanks Bailey but I didn’t see anything about toxicity to humans in my quick skim of that article.

            When are you seizing control of this rag and implementing some standards?

          2. Ms. Carson has some blood on her hands.

        1. I agree completely. If the evidence is there, lets have it. Otherwise, lets reconsider our prior held beliefs.

        2. DDT is a endocrine disruption and a possible carcinogen. Should we not err on the side of caution?

          1. Disruptor, sorry. On mobile. Reason site ducks on mobile. Gotta hurry to post comment before tab crashes.

            1. “Reason site ducks on mobile.”

              How fowl!

          2. “Should we not err on the side of caution?”

            Sarc, right?

      2. Site which purports to be an cooperation of the Ag Extensions of UC-Davis, Cornell, Michigan State and Oregon State, on the toxicity of DDT, with citations to animal toxicology studies (both acute and chronic dosing) and medical literature on human poisoning.

        Like Cytotoxic, I too only skimmed it, but the tl;dr version is that DDT’s toxic to humans only in doses that you’d see if you were in the business of working with the chemical, and that only rarely. It’s not that clear how much DDT bioaccumulates in tissue from chronic, long term environmental exposure though.

  2. The biotechnology company Oxitec has created male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a gene that is lethal to their larval progeny.

    Why do you hate dragonflies and martins, Oxitec? WHY?!

    1. Rich,

      Your comment may be intended sarcastically, but the PC lib overview that includes the anti-GM subset would jump on that as a just cause. Kids doomed to a life of disability, parents doomed to a life short of healthier kids-aww. But hey, ramp up the parade for the bugs and birds that would have to do with a less abundant cloud of flying bugs! Prioritize-save the birds and bugs!

      News flash-the clear scientific winner of GMO over anti-GMO hysteria intellectually, but a looser to anti-GMO propaganda and activism going back decades isn’t going to change for Zika. It will provide some articles on libertarian or conservo websites, and on Fox, and ignored accept by kill pieces on mainstream non Fox media.

  3. “Abe Vigoda Still Alive” web site shuts down:
    “Actor Abe Vigoda, known for ‘Godfather’ role, dies at age 94”
    http://news.yahoo.com/actor-ab…..59655.html

    1. I managed to get through and see “Abe Vigoda is Dead”

      1. It’s nothing personal. Just business.

    2. I like that… “known for Godfather role”. No, he was known as “Fish” in the Seminal tv series “Barney Miller”.

      1. I thought he was known for being old and having a funny name.

  4. What’s more dangerous than the Zika virus? Well, stupidity for one.

    FTA: I’m a consumer of those vacuous platitudes and a victim of this system. After finishing my master’s degree in 2008, I found out?as in, I didn’t already know?that I had $200,000 in student debt.

    The rest goes in the predictable direction you’d expect from a Slate reader/writer/commentor.

    1. covered in AM links

      1. Yeah, there was a long discussion of how irresponsible and childish that guy seems.

      2. Fuck. Sorry for reposting then. I’ve been on the road.

        1. It’s OK, some stupidity needs to be pointed and laughed as often as possible.

          1. Are you referring to the author of the article of sloopy?

            1. Who wrote an article about sloopy?

        2. no problem. it happens.

        3. It was new to me Sloopy.

    2. Some well-paying professions might make this amount manageable, but for a bioethicist like me, it’s been crushing.

      *head in hands*

      He paid $200,000 to be a… *swallows* Bioethicist? Methinks someone spent too much time listening to NPR and thought he’d be that guy in the interviews.

      1. Samual Garner is a bioethicist who lives in Washington. He writes about human research ethics and animal ethics.

        Oh vey.

        1. “…and animal ethics….”

          “Well, it seems to me that condemning that leopard for eating the antelope is a perfectly ethical stand!’

      2. Another useless snowflake…

      3. Hey, nobody said you had to be smart to be a bioethicist.

    3. Hard to have sympathy on someone with a masters in bioethics. I mean, if you spend eight years studying to be a Luddite, you’re A) spending way to much time and B) deserve a dark fate.

      But, then again, this article did teach me something. “Students who borrow graduate with an average debt of $29,000 for a bachelor’s degree.” I had actually thought the average was higher. $29 is a lot, but that seems like a manageable number. You know, as long as the degree you got isn’t worthless. Hell, if you’re able to live with your parents a year or two as a factory worker, you should have enough to cover that debt. For best results, do the factory work pre-College and you won’t even need the loan.

      1. Yeah, that’s essentially a car loan. Shouldn’t be a crushing burden.

        I wonder what the median college debt is, though.

      2. That’s around what I had when I graduated. It was paid off in 5 years.

  5. In fact, Oxitec has already shown considerable success in a pilot program in Brazil in which engineered autocidal mosquitoes reduced the local population of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes by more than 80 percent. Given this record, the city of Piracicaba is now contracting with the company to release their GMO mosquitoes to help reduce Zika virus infections.

    Brazil?! Dear Zod, Ron, do you want killer mosquitoes unleashed on the world now, as well?

  6. Damn Ron, that’s a depressing pictures to use. Hopefully they get this under control quickly.

    1. Indeed.

      in some regions one to two percent of babies are born with the malady.

      *** shakes head, counts blessings ***

      1. That’s why access to abortion is so needed.

        1. Really? So if your baby is not up to snuff, snuff it? What if he/she is the next Einstein or Hawking? I’m pretty sure if you could look at their genetic code and decide they are not worthy you would be diminishing humanity not improving it.

          1. Don’t bother. Cytotoxic is a sociopath on this issue.

            Wait, he’s an objectivist. Make that every issue.

            1. You misspelled ‘right’.

          2. If your baby is freakishly deformed or otherwise a broken unit then yeah get rid of it and make a newer better baby.

            1. If only your parents would have listened…

              1. Then I’d still be around.

            2. I’m curious, C.

              Does your advice apply only before delivery, or does at apply after, as well?

          3. Many babies with microcephaly will never be anything but drooling blobs of flesh. It’s harsh, but it’s true. They basically have no brain. There is zero chance that they will be the next anything.

            I can’t say for sure, as there is know way I can know what it is to be alive for someone like that. But I’m inclined to think that keeping them alive is worse than aborting them when it becomes clear what the problem is.

            If you are against all abortion or principle, then fine. But if not, I really can’t see any valid objection to selectively aborting to avoid severe birth defects.

        2. I guess you gotta count your blessings, eh? You might be just a head in a jar, but hey, at least you are noticrocephalic.

          1. Microcephalic, goddamnit!!! Fuck you auto-correct, and Fuck you lack of edit button!

  7. I didn’t know that vaccines are rarely profitable. This is surprising given that there are somewhat effective vaccines recently developed for malaria and dengue. If they can make a vaccine for dengue virus-which has an MO almost seemingly designed to frustrate vaccination efforts-then they should be able to make one for Zika.

    1. I’m purely speculating here, but I wonder if it has something to do with vaccines being a one-time-use drug (if they work). I suspect the most profitable drugs are the ones that you have to take for a long time.

      1. So that’s why they are always telling people to get flu shots.

        1. + 7 boosters

        2. I listened to an Econ Talk recently about how a lot of modern medicine treats risk, not disease. And that does tend to be more profitable.

  8. Good article Ron. We should embrace new technology/bio-tech/science, then watch it carefully and embrace it to death if it has unintended negative consequences.

  9. So if you are not pregnant, nor planning to become pregnant, Brazil is still an ok travel destination this year, right?

    1. From the CDC’s Website:

      About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill (i.e., develop Zika).

      The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week.

      The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

      Zika virus usually remains in the blood of an infected person for a few days but it can be found longer in some people.

      Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

      Deaths are rare.

      Now that you have the information, that is really up to you, and who the hell are we to tell you what to do?

      1. Source: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/symptoms/

        Sorry, forgot to post it.

        1. Cool. I’ll flip a coin.

    2. Well, aches and fever if you catch it. Otherwise, induce all the pregnancy you want. Patriarchy rules!

  10. That’ll be interesting indeed. And if things go wrong one can always import crocodiles to kill the GMOsquitoes. Or possbily cows. Go GMOOtants. Yay.

      1. That *is* cool.

        Now, if only we can convince Oxitech to genetically engineer bats to shoot lasers out of their eyes!

        1. “All I want is some frickin’ sharks bats with some frickin’ lasers on their heads! Honestly, what do I pay you people for?! Throw me a frickin’ bone here, people!”

  11. “But even more promisingly, Oxitec’s vector-control technology could be superseded by mosquitoes that have been gene-edited to resist infection by disease organisms in the first place. Last fall, researchers at the University of Missouri reported a proof of concept experiment in which they used the fantastic CRISPR gene-editing technique to create Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that would pass along disease resistance genes to all of their progeny. ”

    I do not understand why “environmentalists” do not get behind this. You can solve the problem without killing the mosquitoes, and the organisms that feed on them.

    1. Ultimately, it boils down to an unjustified reverence for the “natural” (i.e., not human) world, and incorrect belief that there is a natural balance that humans will just inevitably muck up.

    2. Oh, I think you know “why.”

      1. I do, however I also realize that people other than me also read this comment section. Why not encourage them to ask the same question ? =)

  12. Hmm. I wonder if anyone has blamed the Zika outbreak on climate change?

    *** takes the plunge ***

      1. Damn your nimble mind!

    1. It’s funny, I hear lay people blaming random shit on climate change in the news, and it’s entirely uncritically reported.

      Some city manager is saying they’re dealing with water distribution issues… something something climate change… something challenges…

      What role, exactly, has climate change played in THIS particular issue of water in your growing metropolis? Show your work. All of it.

  13. I can’t wait for the Olympics.

    1. *** gets anti-itch cream ***

  14. Clear explanation for last week’s CDC data regarding gastroschisis rates in hispanic women.

  15. The horrible consequences of a Zika virus outbreak here might be enough for the public to sweep aside anti-biotech misinformation and embrace the GMO mosquito solution to disease contol.

    I doubt it. Maybe for normal people, but for the activist zealots, no amount of information to the contrary will change their minds. When confronted with new information that challenges their previously held beliefs, it’s the new information that must be discredited in order to protect the narrative.

  16. “But even more promisingly, Oxitec’s vector-control technology could be superseded by mosquitoes that have been gene-edited to resist infection by disease organisms in the first place. ”

    More promising? Saving mosquito lives? I much prefer the choice of killing the unborn mosquito babies.

    1. I dunno ? Maybe something about preserving the integrity of the food chain ?

    2. I would say the “more promising” method is better because it gets passed on and hopefully even becomes prevalent. The other method only affects the number of females that mate with the GMO males released.

  17. Ah, more Third-World diseases headed for the US! There seems to be an awful lot of that under this administration.

  18. They need to get on Chagas disease.

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