Outcomes After Zika Virus Infection in Pregnant Women

A lower rate of possible Zika-related deficits was found in offspring of women in French territories in the Americas than has been reported in Brazil.

During the past year, Latin American countries and the U.S have reported on the outcomes of pregnancies of women infected with Zika virus. Reports, primarily from Brazil, demonstrate teratogenic effects, mainly on the ocular and central nervous systems. Now, researchers report on the outcomes of pregnancies of Zika-infected women in the French territories in the Americas (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique). The investigators prospectively examined pregnant women with suspected Zika virus infection and enrolled 546 women in any stage of pregnancy who had laboratory-confirmed Zika virus infection on the basis of a positive result on a reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay on blood, urine, or both.

The pregnancies included 555 fetuses and resulted in 11 miscarriages (2.0%), 32 cases of microcephaly of any degree (defined as greater than 2 standard deviations below the mean for sex and gestational age; 5.8%), and 28 other cases of central nervous system defects (5.0%). Overall, 7% of fetuses or infants had either neurologic or ocular defects possibly associated with Zika. The rate of neurologic or ocular defects was highest when Zika virus infection occurred during the first trimester of pregnancy (12.7%) versus the second or third trimester (3.6% and 5.3%, respectively).


The proportion of ocular and nervous system birth defects reported in this population is similar to a report from the U.S. (6%) but much lower than in a report from Brazil (42%). This difference is largely unexplained except if the predominant Zika strain differs among different countries. As the authors note, some defects may not be evident until these offspring are followed for a longer period.

Cell-jacking proteins could be the key to cracking Zika and dengue

Targeting common host proteins used by different viruses to manipulate human cells could lead to new treatments.



Indian patients suffering from dengue fever in a hospital ward

People with dengue fever receive treatment at a hospital in India.

Dengue and Zika viruses replicate inside people by hijacking some of the same proteins, according to a study1 published on 13 December in Cell.

This finding comes from a suite of techniques that exposes how viruses manipulate the cells they infect, which marks a shift in how researchers are thinking about drug development. The idea is to target human proteins exploited by viruses, rather than targeting the pathogens themselves. The medicines developed with such an approach might treat multiple illnesses, rather than a single disease. They could also and sidestep the drug resistance that results from rapid viral evolution.

In the new study, investigators demonstrate that dengue and Zika viruses replicate and spread by exploiting some of the same proteins in humans and mosquitoes — the insects that transmit both viruses to people. The study authors also identified a protein related to brain development that is hijacked by the Zika virus.

“This has the potential to change the paradigm of antiviral drug development,” says John Young, global head of infectious-diseases discovery at Roche, a pharmaceutical company in Basel, Switzerland.

Nevan Krogan, a geneticist at the University of California, San Francisco, led the project and is using this host-centered approach to also investigate how Ebola, HIV, chlamydia and four other infectious microbes hack human cells. He’s also started to apply the approach to look at how human proteins are altered in non-communicable conditions — such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Go fish

Viruses are too tiny to fend off inflammatory attacks from their hosts and multiply on their own, so they manipulate the host’s proteins to do their bidding. Each virus exploits different weaknesses in the cells that they infiltrate. Yet Krogan wondered whether there might be some overlap in how viruses rewired the proteins in the cells they infect. “We want to find commonalities so that you can come up with one drug to hit multiple diseases,” he says.

To fish for hijacked proteins, Krogan and his colleagues used a molecular ‘hook’ attached to viral proteins that would stick to any other protein that the virus interacted with. The team then infused the modified viruses into human and mosquito cells. Next, they isolated the captured proteins and identified them using a technique that classifies compounds according to mass. The researchers then used machine learning and other computational methods to search for patterns in the data that indicated which proteins to explore further.

With this method, Krogan’s team identified 28 proteins in both people and mosquitoes that interact with both Zika and dengue viruses. One of these proteins, SEC61, normally shuttles other proteins around inside of cells.

Krogan suspected that the viruses might usurp SEC61 for their own transportation needs. To test this idea, the team treated cells infected with dengue or Zika with a chemical that inhibits SEC61, and found that both viruses couldn’t replicate.

That chemical is currently being tested as a cancer treatment, says Krogan. He suggests that it could one day be developed into a therapy for dengue and Zika — infections that result in fevers and, occasionally, death. Development of such a therapy could be hindered by the possible side effects of targeting proteins that are vital to cellular functions, because that could cause as much damage as the diseases themselves.

The team also discovered that a protein in humans and mosquitoes, ANKLE2, seemed integral to microcephaly — a brain abnormality seen in babies infected with Zika in utero. ANKLE2 is involved in brain development, and when the researchers injected excess ANKLE2 into fruit flies infected with Zika, their brains developed normally compared with infected flies that didn’t receive the injections. It’s still unclear exactly how Zika influences ANKLE2, and how that leads to microcephaly.

Finding common ground

“I am blown away by this paper,” says Nikos Vasilakis, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Researchers, including Vasilakis, had highlighted other proteins that might contribute to microcephaly. But Vasilakis says that this is the first time he’s read about an approach that reveals several, testable protein interactions.

Krogan hopes that this host-centered approach will help drug developers to find treatments for a range of maladies. In a study2 published alongside the dengue–Zika paper, Krogan’s team reveals human proteins that the Ebola virus manipulates. His group is also analysing the functions of 435 proteins that are potentially reprogrammed by HIV.

Furthermore, Krogan says that focusing on the host side of a condition, rather than on the pathogen, can help to bridge research gaps. For example, if the same network of proteins is altered in someone with dengue and cancer, then researchers could pool their knowledge to hunt for a treatment that targets those proteins. “Science is so siloed,” he says. “The data we are generating makes connections between proteins, and also between scientists.”

Clues to Zika Damage Might Lie in Cases of Twins

While identical twins often share a fate, fraternal twins
typically don’t, a divergence that offers clues to researchers.
But one case is confounding these expectations.

On the bed next to her brother, Ana Vitória da Silva Araújo acted like the 1-year-old she was. She smiled and babbled. She played with a stuffed whale. She plucked the pacifier from her brother’s mouth and the burp cloth from his shoulder.

Her brother, João Lucas, seemed unaware of her, his eyes closed, his mouth making sucking motions. It was typical behavior for a newborn. But João Lucas is the exact same age as Ana Vitória — they are twins.

João Lucas was born with microcephaly and other serious problems, the result of his mother being bitten by a Zika infected mosquito during pregnancy. But the virus that attacked his brain in the womb apparently spared his sister.

The siblings are one of nine sets of twins identified in Brazil’s Zika crisis, and scientists hope they can shed light on how the virus works generally and why it inflicts ruthless damage on some babies and not others.

Twins often yield clues to medical mysteries because their biological similarities allow scientists to identify relevant differences. Determining why one twin became infected in the womb while the other did not may illuminate how Zika crosses the placenta, how it enters the brain, and whether any genetic mutations make a fetus more resistant or susceptible to Zika infection.

Until recently, Brazil’s Zika twins seemed to follow a pattern, said Mayana Zatz, a geneticist and molecular biologist at the University of São Paulo. The cases include two sets of identical twins, and both babies in each pair have microcephaly, she said. There are also six sets of fraternal twins, in which one twin has microcephaly, while the other appears unaffected.

Since identical twins share one placenta while fraternal twins almost always have separate placentas, Dr. Zatz and other experts suggested that the Zika virus may have penetrated one placenta and not the other.

Walking home after their two-hour bus ride to attend medical appointments.CreditAdriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Perhaps the virus entered through a weak spot in one placenta’s membrane, said Dr. Ernesto Marques, an infectious disease expert at the University of Pittsburgh and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Recife, Brazil. Or if one fetus “kicked the placenta,” he said, inflammation from that bruise on the membrane could become a portal.

But one set of twins has broken the pattern. Those twins are fraternal and had separate placentas — but both have microcephaly and other Zika complications. “The boy is more affected than the girl, but both are severe,” Dr. Zatz said.

That case complicates the theory. Dr. Vanessa van der Linden, who helped discover that Zika causes microcephaly and has treated some of the twins, said one explanation might be that in some fraternal cases Zika crossed both placentas, but the twins had genetic differences that influenced why only one became infected or “why the babies reacted differently to the virus.”

Dr. Marques suggested another possibility: that an impaired twin was exposed to Zika before the mother’s body or the placenta developed immune responses against the virus and that the second fetus was infected slightly later.

Ms. Ribeiro took João Lucas for a hearing test. CreditAdriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

“It should reach both at an equal time,” he said. “However, if the virus hit one of the babies before the mother actually had developed protective immune responses, you have a problem.”

Dr. Zatz’s lab has drawn blood from affected and unaffected twins, and is growing brain cells from their stem cells. She is testing to see which of those cells are susceptible to Zika infection. That could show whether some twins have genetic predispositions that make Zika infection more likely. Ultimately, Dr. Zatz expects to find an interplay of factors that can vary in each twin pregnancy. “I believe,” she said, “the explanation will be complex.”

For now, why João Lucas is devastated by the virus and his sister is not remains a mystery.

When João Lucas and his twin sister were born in August 2015, their mother, Neide Maria Ferreira da Silva, was unaware he had microcephaly or brain damage, she said. He was born first and was temporarily placed in an oxygen chamber because of breathing problems. And the maternity hospital’s “deformation doctor,” a physician specializing in newborns with deficiencies, recommended he see a geneticist. But Ms. da Silva thought any problems would be mild, she said.

She had already given birth to 10 children, starting when she was 17. It took a month before she brought João Lucas to the geneticist, who said “his brain, it wasn’t like ours,” Ms. da Silva, 42, recalled. “It was going to be always very small.”

Ms. da Silva holding Ana Vitória, right, and Ms. Ribeiro with Joao Lucas, left. Ms. Ribeiro is the boy’s guardian. CreditAdriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

She was shocked. “I didn’t feel sad or upset,” she said. “I thought about how it was going to be when he grows up” and realized “I will have to take care of him more than the other kids.”

But his symptoms began overwhelming her. “He would fall asleep, and five minutes later he would start screaming,” she said.

Ms. da Silva was especially alarmed by João Lucas’s seizures, which made him “get purple” and look “like his eyes were going to jump out.”

Sometimes he became so agitated, he would scratch himself in the face, Ms. da Silva said. “Blood would come out.”

Ms. Ribeiro giving João Lucas a massage. The boy sometimes became so agitated, he would scratch himself in the face.CreditAdriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Unable to cope with his care, Ms. da Silva started bringing him to a neighbor’s cousin, who began caring for him. The caregiver, Valéria Gomes Ribeiro, 46, brought the baby to his first appointment with a neurologist. The doctor prescribed clonazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, to calm him, but Ms. Ferreira still found that when João Lucas was home, something often went wrong. He developed pneumonia and eating problems, even what she called “an emotional fever” because he seemed to miss Ms. Ribeiro, Ms. da Silva said.

Ms. da Silva’s 11-year-old daughter became pregnant and had an abortion, prompting a child protection agency visit. After Ms. da Silva told the caseworker that a friend was caring for her Zika baby, the agency investigated and initiated proceedings to remove João Lucas from her home. To keep him from being placed in a shelter, both women and the state agreed that João Lucas would live with Ms. Ribeiro, while Ana Vitória stayed with Ms. da Silva. Under court order, João Lucas spends Sundays at his biological mother’s house.

Ms. Ribeiro, who has adorned João Lucas with a bracelet and necklace hung with a good-luck charm called a “figa,” tries to keep up with his many appointments. They include visits with a psychologist who shows João Lucas a panel of black and white squares to stimulate vision and rubs him with a sponge studded with Popsicle sticks to stimulate touch.

On a visit last fall to Ms. Ribeiro’s emerald green house on a dirt street, where the 23rd psalm hangs on a yellow wall, Ana Vitória toddled around, clutching a piece of spongy cake with one hand, thumping a table with the other. Reaching for her brother’s mouth, she touched the green tape that therapists apply around his lips, fingers, back and chin to relax tight muscles. Ms. da Silva waved a rattle before João Lucas, but he did not respond.

So far, his sister — like the other fraternal twins without obvious brain damage — appears unimpaired, but doctors are monitoring her and the others. At Ana Vitória’s one-year exam, she was slightly behind developmentally. Her vocabulary was limited and she was slow to point to her mother when the doctor asked, Ms. da Silva said.

That could be unrelated to Zika, but, she noted, “The doctor never said it’s 100 percent sure that she doesn’t have a problem.”


Zika persists in semen, but viral shedding stops in most cases in a few months

 A new study suggests at least half of men who have been infected with Zika will emit traces of the virus in their semen, but in most cases that viral shedding stops after about three months.

The research, conducted in Puerto Rico, found that 56 percent of men who had been infected had traces of virus in their semen but about half of them stopped emitting those viral traces by about a month after they first became ill.

And by three months after the onset of symptoms, only 5 percent still had virus in their semen.

The findings underscore the prudence of the the current guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at preventing sexual transmission of the virus from a man to a female partner who is or might become pregnant.

Both agencies recommend that men who have been infected should wait at least six months before trying to father a child and should practice safe sex or abstinence for that period of time if their partner is pregnant.

“What we’ve seen with this study is that the existing guidelines are supported by what the science is showing,” said Tyler Sharp, senior author of the paper, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “So certainly for the time being, I think the guidelines are going to stand.”

Sharp is acting head epidemiologist with the CDC’s dengue branch in Puerto Rico. The study was conducted there with the help of other CDC staff and researchers from several institutions in Puerto Rico.

Because of the nature of the tests used, the group cannot say if the specimens that tested positive contained whole, live viruses that could have infected a sexual partner, or degraded viral fragments that would not have the power to infect.

“That’s one of the big questions we still have remaining. And we’re still working on techniques, both here at the dengue branch and in many other places, to best assess infectivity,” Sharp said.

These are the preliminary findings involving the group’s research on how long Zika virus is found in a variety of bodily fluids — serum (a component of blood), saliva, semen, urine, and vaginal secretions.

The aim was to track how long traces of the virus could be detected in these fluids, either to determine the optimal way to test for Zika infection or to see how long a risk of sexual transmission of the virus persists.

The researchers chose not to study whether and for how long tears and sweat contained traces of virus, concluding that neither fluid posed much of a transmission risk.

The group is looking for the presence of the virus in breast milk. But to date few pregnant women have been enrolled, and those findings will be reported in another study.

These results are based on the first 150 people enrolled in the study. Sharp said the group ultimately expects the study to involve 350 individuals.

Zika threat isn’t over, CDC director warns pregnant women thinking about beach vacations

The question of sexual transmission of Zika — a virus normally transmitted to people by infected mosquitoes — was a new and unexpected wrinkle for a flavivirus, the family to which Zika belongs.

A case was reported in 2008, by an American researcher infected in Africa who infected his wife on his return to the US. But before the current Zika outbreak in the Americas, it was thought to be a rare event. It is now believed to happen more frequently, though mosquitoes are still thought to be the major driver of Zika spread.

Given that the virus inflicts its worst toll on the developing fetuses, quantifying the risk has been an urgent line of inquiry for scientists, whose work informs the public health recommendations issued by agencies like the CDC.

There have been reports of viral traces being found in the semen of infected men for months after infection. Currently the longest time on record is 189 days, Sharp noted, In the Puerto Rico study, one man’s semen tested positive for 125 days.

The researchers saw very little evidence of Zika virus in vaginal secretions — only one woman among 50 tested was positive, three days after developing symptoms.

Saliva tested positive more commonly, but still only in a minority of cases. Urine testing turned up a high degree of positive tests in the first week, but very few after a month.

Serum testing appeared to be the best way to find evidence of Zika. “What we’re seeing is that urine has some utility [for diagnostic testing] but at least in this cohort of individuals … serum is better for a diagnostic specimen,” Sharp said.


Why Were There Fewer Microcephaly Cases from Zika Last Year?

A new study of 2016 has some surprising findings.

Dr. Stella Guerra performs physical therapy on an infant born with microcephaly at Altino Ventura Foundation on June 2, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. 

Of the many mysteries that remain about the Zika virus and its attack on the Americas, perhaps the most puzzling one relates to the bizarre distribution of babies born with Zika-induced microcephaly.

After so many such births were recorded in Northeastern Brazil in the last quarter of 2015, the country — and other places where the virus fanned out to from Brazil — braced themselves for a similar tsunami in 2016. But it didn’t materialize — at least not to the same degree.

A new and intriguing letter to the New England Journal of Medicine offers a theory for how to explain the missing microcephaly cases, the babies that were predicted to be born in Northeastern Brazil after Zika’s second wave of infection in the early part of 2016.

The authors suggest the region’s first wave of Zika may have been its only wave of Zika to date. Something that caused similar illness, likely the chikungunya virus, was probably responsible for the high level of fever and rash illnesses Brazil recorded in 2016, they theorized.

The authors — from the Brazilian ministry of health, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the Pan American Health Organization, and the World Health Organization — used information from two databases that capture cases of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

When the data were slotted into a graph, the discrepancy was plain as day. In 2015, a large spike in GBS cases was followed about 23 weeks later by a wave of microcephaly births. But a corresponding spike in GBS cases in early 2016 was not.

Zika infection can trigger GBS, a progressive paralysis from which most people recover. And Zika infection in pregnancy can attack the fetus, leading to microcephaly and other neurological birth defects.

Chikungunya infection can cause GBS. But chikungunya infection in pregnancy is not known to cause microcephaly.

“This is not a statement of fact and proof. This is the best hypothesis,” said Christopher Dye, senior author and an epidemiologist with the WHO.

“The cases in the first year, back in 2015, were really Zika cases. And that’s why we saw the microcephaly in 2015. But in 2016, it was predominantly chikungunya, not Zika, and that’s why we saw Guillain-Barré, but not microcephaly.”

Dye said based on reports of rash and fever in Northeastern Brazil in early 2016, it was expected that about 1,000 babies would be born with Zika-induced microcephaly from late summer onward. Instead, about 80 were recorded in the region.

For many diseases, this type of data mining and hypothesizing would not be needed. During a wave of illness, testing of the sick would show what was infecting them. And studies looking at the blood of people who had previously been ill would indicate how broadly a pathogen had spread.

But one of the vexing dilemmas of the Zika virus is that it so closely resembles related viruses that testing cannot always tell whether a person is infected with Zika or something similar, like dengue. Widespread testing hasn’t been done, Dye said.

He and his co-authors acknowledged there could be other explanations.

For instance, from the earliest stages of the Zika outbreak in the Americas, questions were raised about the high number of microcephaly cases in Northeastern Brazil. No other place experienced so many, leading people to ask whether there was something else there — a co-factor — that exacerbated the impact the virus had on the population of the region.

Dr. David Heymann, who was the chairman of the WHO’s Zika emergency committee — which has been disbanded — told STAT the committee looked at issues like population crowding in the cities of Northeastern Brazil and the nutritional status of people there, among other things.

But no clearly obvious co-factor came to light. And some — questions about local use of insecticides — were ruled out, Dye said.

The letter’s authors cannot exclude the possibility that there was a co-factor there, Dye said. But the fact that there were few microcephaly cases the following year means that the co-factor would have been missing in 2016 — and that makes it less likely.

The authors also noted a third possibility — that women in the region who had seen the possible outcome of a Zika infection in pregnancy might have either avoided pregnancies in large numbers or terminated pregnancies. But if the maternity wards of hospitals in the region had emptied out in 2016, the world would have heard about it by now.

“If there was a huge effect like that, it would have been big news very quickly. It would have been very visible,” Dye said.

If the theory — that Zika blew through Northeastern Brazil in one wave — is correct, it likely means so many people there were infected in 2015 that there were few still vulnerable to the virus in 2016.  In some ways, that may be a good sign; it might suggest Zika outbreaks are swift.

But it doesn’t mean the virus is done. More likely, said Dye, is that Zika will return after births create pools of people who have no immunity to the virus, hitting perhaps when people aren’t expecting it.

“But we really can’t rule anything out. And we’re ready for further surprises on Zika virus,” he said.


Doctors Name Monsanto’s Larvicide As Cause of Brazilian Microcephaly Outbreak

A report from the Argentine doctors’ organisation, Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, challenges the theory that the Zika virus epidemic in Brazil is the cause of the increase in the birth defect microcephaly among newborns.

The increase in this birth defect, in which the baby is born with an abnormally small head and often has brain damage, was quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health. However, according to the Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, the Ministry failed to recognise that in the area where most sick people live, a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was introduced into the drinking water supply in 2014. This poison, Pyriproxyfen, is used in a State-controlled programme aimed at eradicating disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The Physicians added that the Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese “strategic partner” of Monsanto. 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), according to the Physicians.

The Physicians commented: “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.”

They also noted that Zika has traditionally been held to be a relatively benign disease that has never before been associated with birth defects, even in areas where it infects 75% of the population.

Larvicide the most likely culprit in birth defects

 Pyriproxyfen is a relatively new introduction to the Brazilian environment; the microcephaly increase is a relatively new phenomenon. So the larvicide seems a plausible causative factor in microcephaly – far more so than GM mosquitoes, which some have blamed for the Zika epidemic and thus for the birth defects. There is no sound evidence to support the notion promoted by some sources that GM mosquitoes can cause Zika, which in turn can cause microcephaly. In fact, out of 404 confirmed microcephaly cases in Brazil, only 17 (4.2%) tested positive for the Zika virus.

Brazilian health experts agree Pyriproxyfen is chief suspect

 The Argentine Physicians’ report, which also addresses the Dengue fever epidemic in Brazil, concurs with the findings of a separate report on the Zika outbreak by the Brazilian doctors’ and public health researchers’ organisation, Abrasco.

Abrasco also names Pyriproxyfen as a likely cause of the microcephaly. It condemns the strategy of chemical control of Zika-carrying mosquitoes, which it says is contaminating the environment as well as people and is not decreasing the numbers of mosquitoes. Abrasco suggests that this strategy is in fact driven by the commercial interests of the chemical industry, which it says is deeply integrated into the Latin American ministries of health, as well as the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organisation.

Abrasco names the British GM insect company Oxitec as part of the corporate lobby that is distorting the facts about Zika to suit its own profit-making agenda. Oxitec sells GM mosquitoes engineered for sterility and markets them as a disease-combatting product – a strategy condemned by the Argentine Physicians as “a total failure, except for the company supplying mosquitoes”.

Are the Zika virus – and GM mosquitoes – being wrongly blamed?

Are the Zika virus – and GM mosquitoes – being wrongly blamed?

IBM Creates A Molecule That Could Destroy All Viruses

One macromolecule to rule them all, from Ebola to Zika and the flu

flu virus

The influenza virus.

CDC/ Dr. Erskine. L. Palmer; Dr. M. L. Martin via Flickr

Finding a cure for viruses like Ebola, Zika, or even the flu is a challenging task. Viruses are vastly different from one another, and even the same strain of a virus can mutate and change–that’s why doctors give out a different flu vaccine each year. But a group of researchers at IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore sought to understand what makes all viruses alike. Using that knowledge, they’ve come up with a macromolecule that may have the potential to treat multiple types of viruses and prevent them from infecting us. The work was published recently in the journal Macromolecules.

For their study, the researchers ignored the viruses’ RNA and DNA, which could be key areas to target, but because they change from virus to virus and also mutate, it’s very difficult to target them successfully.

Instead, the researchers focused on glycoproteins, which sit on the outside of all viruses and attach to cells in the body, allowing the viruses to do their dirty work by infecting cells and making us sick. Using that knowledge, the researchers created a macromolecule, which is basically one giant molecule made of smaller subunits. This macromolecule has key factors that are crucial in fighting viruses. First, it’s able to attract viruses towards itself using electrostatic charges. Once the virus is close, the macromolecule attaches to the virus and makes the virus unable to attach to healthy cells. Then it neutralizes the virus’ acidity levels, which makes it less able to replicate.

As an alternative way to fight, the macromolecule also contains a sugar called mannose. This sugar attaches to healthy immune cells and forces them closer to the virus so that the viral infection can be eradicated more easily.

The researchers tested out this treatment in the lab on a few viruses, including Ebola and dengue, and they found that the molecule did work as they thought it would: According to the paper, the molecules bound to the glycoproteins on the viruses’ surfaces and reduced the number of viruses. Further, the mannose successfully prevented the virus from infecting immune cells.

This all sounds promising, but the treatment still has a ways to go before it could be used as a disinfectant or even as a potential pill that we could take to prevent and treat viral infections. But it does represent a step in the right direction for treating viruses: figuring out what is similar about all viruses to create a broad spectrum antiviral treatment.

BMJ News review 2016: Corruption, Polish trainees, Zika, and dementia top the news hit parade in 2016

News items about fraud and corruption in healthcare always attract a lot of attention, and 2016 was no exception. The most popular story on bmj.com this year concerned scientists at the top US public health agency, who were unhappy about a slew of what they saw as unethical practices that compromised their employer’s independence and often directed them “to do things we know are not right.” Concerned about the influence of “outside parties” and “rogue interests,” they took the unprecedented step of writing to the chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urging her to “clean up this house.” The CDC is yet to respond to the letter.

polish_doctorsSometimes news stories take off unpredictably, and so it was with the second most popular news item in 2016, which reported the plight of junior doctors in Poland. While trainee doctors in the UK had their own problems in 2016, perhaps the report from Poland offered a reality check to doctors throughout Europe. Salaries for junior doctors there are as low as 3170 zloty (£560) a month, working weeks of 60 to 90 hours are commonplace, and many doctors have to work outside their chosen specialty. As journalists we like to think that our headlines have an influence too, and we had some fun with “Junior doctors rise up in Poland,” but I also suspect that social media had a role to play in spreading this story.

zika_mother_and_baby_brazilThe year will also be remembered for the Zika virus. Pretty much unheard of before the year started, Zika was declared an international public health emergency in February, after the virus was linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil. Several stories on Zika appeared in the top 20 on bmj.com in 2016, but the most popular summarised the main points in 60 seconds in January.

The research news story with the biggest number of hits in 2016 reported that the incidence of dementia in the US had declined in the past 30 years. The study showed that, on average, the incidence of dementia fell by 20% each decade since 1977. Comforting news, perhaps, when the incidence of dementia might be expected to rise as life expectancy increases.

So why this finding? The researchers concluded that although the incidence of dementia associated with stroke, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure had fallen over the study period, and vascular health had improved, these trends could not fully explain their study results.

statinsCould statins be playing a role? A study we reported in December (and can’t be included in the hit parade because it has it has not been online long enough) linked the use of statins to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. No doubt we will learn more about this association next year.

But it’s a timely opportunity to mention The BMJ’s ongoing campaign for patient level data to be made available by the authors of 183 trials of statins, with the aim of characterising adverse outcomes from published and unpublished information. Will 2017 be the year that The BMJ finally gets its hands on the data and is able to help answer the question of whether statins are more benefit than harm in people at low risk of heart disease? Watch this space.

 Chemicals, Vaccines, and Bill Gates: What You Need To Know About The Zika

Let’s try this one more time.. The Zika virus does not cause microcephaly.

Zika has existed for more than 70 years without a single documented birth defect attributed to the disease. The virus is insignificant and more mild than the seasonal flu, with symptoms ranging from a low-grade fever to body aches and other cold-like symptoms.


The fact of the matter is Big Chem has pesticides to sell and Big Pharma has a vaccine to push.

Suddenly, a disease that has been irrelevant for decades is an imminent health threat.

A gullible public has been tricked into believing the only way to save ourselves from certain death or deformed babies is to allow the aerial abatement of chemicals banned all over the world.

For example, this past weekend’s spraying in South Carolina was successful in wiping out those pesky Zika-carrying skeets. Too bad it also decimated the state’s bee population.

“On Saturday, it was total energy, millions of bees foraging, pollinating, making honey for winter. Today, it stinks of death. Maggots and other insects are feeding on the honey and the baby bees who are still in the hives. It’s heartbreaking.” -Juanita Stanley, Beekeeper

Millions of bees are dead as a result of the state’s first aerial spraying in 14 years. The pesticide, Trumpet (which contains naled), rained down from the sky for 2 hours early Sunday morning.

According to the manufacturer’s label, Trumpet is “highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. To minimize hazard to bees, it is recommended that the product is not applied more than two hours after sunrise or two hours before sunset, limiting application to times when bees are least active.”

Hmmm…it must have been just an unfortunate oversight to spray heavily during the precise time explicitly discouraged on the label. But, hey, at least AMVAC Chemical Corporation and their parent company, American Vanguard Corporation are making millions.

Chemical corporations aren’t the only ones who will profit from an insignificant disease.

The U.S. government has commissioned Takeda Pharmaceutical Company for the development of a Zika vaccine, with as much as $312 million committed to funding.

Takeda said in a press release that the cash will be put to the development of an “inactivated, adjuvanted, whole Zika virus vaccine.”

Takeda Pharmaceutical has plans for more than just a “cure” for Zika. The Japan-based Takeda also has vaccines for dengue, norovirus and polio in the works.

“This Zika vaccine program joins our work in dengue, norovirus, our partnership with the Japanese Government on pandemic influenza, and the recently announced partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help eradicate polio. These efforts to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus reinforce Takeda’s commitment to the health of people everywhere, including the most vulnerable populations that are threatened by Zika,” stated Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, Corporate Officer and President of the Global Vaccine Business Division at Takeda.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, you say? Now, that’s interesting.

How convenient that their little foundation has also funded Oxitec, the genetically modified mosquito project that many believe is actually spreading the Zika virus. What a clever guy. After all, there is quite a bit of profit in unleashing a disease on the population and then creating the vaccine to ‘cure’ it. (Read more about that here.)

As reported by Daniel Barker:

It’s easy to see where the Zika virus crisis might fit in with Bill Gates’ admitted depopulation agenda. Not only are babies being born nearly brain-dead, but now women throughout Latin America are being urged not to have children during the next two years. Coincidence?

And in the latest Zika news, GM mosquitoes are now being considered for use in fighting the further spread of the virus.

And of course, researchers are scrambling to develop a vaccine

The irony should not be lost on anyone that the proposed solutions for Zika containment (chemicals, vaccines) are the real causes behind the birth defects being blamed on the virus.

1. Monsanto’s Chemicals

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, “probably” causes cancer according the the World Health Organization. It has also been linked to microcephaly.

The link was established in a study titled ‘Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling.’

In the study, glyphosate-based concentrations were injected into frog and chicken embryos and it was discovered that microcephaly was a side effect in both, along with gradual loss of rhombomere domains and the reduction of the optic vesicles (the latter two are developing parts of the brain in an embryo). (Read the study here.)

Global Research Center also released a different report confirming Brazil’s rampant pesticide use if far more of a concern in microcephaly development than Zika.

According to the report:

“Pesticides in Brazil and Pernambuco state are more likely to be the cause of microcephaly and birth defects than Zika virus and the links below speak for themselves…” (View the links here.)

2. Tdap Vaccine

A study published in The National Center for Biotechnology Information reveals the the United Stated government has known for decades that a link between Tdap and microcephaly exists.

An exert from the study reads:

Prenatal factors are thought to account for 20 to 30 percent of cases. This category includes cerebral anomalies, chromosomal disorders, neurocutaneous syndromes such as tuberous sclerosis, inherited metabolic disorders, intrauterine infections, family history of seizures, and microcephaly (Bobele and Bodensteiner, 1990; Kurokawa et al., 1980; Ohtahara, 1984; Riikonen and Donner, 1979). (Read the full study here.)

At the end of 2014, the Brazilian government mandated the Tdap vaccine for all pregnant women and in the final months of 2015, the Zika-induced microcephaly ‘outbreak’ was all CNN could talk about.

29 countries all over the world have reported cases of the Zika virus, but not a single documented cases of Zika-related microcephaly exists anywhere but Brazil. That’s odd.

The Outliers has compiled a great fact sheet that everyone should read before receiving the Tdap vaccine. We still have a choice, despite the recent revelation of a CDC Quarantine Committee hell-bent on force vaccinating the American public. (Read about that here.)

Thank you to The Outliers for this invaluable information about the Tdap vaccine that the CDC pushes for every pregnancy, regardless of the patient’s previous history of receiving the vaccine.

FACT #1.There are ingredients in the pertussis-containing Tdap vaccine that have not been fully evaluated for potential genotoxic or other adverse effects on the human fetus developing in the womb that may negatively affect health after birth, including aluminum adjuvants, mercury containing (Thimerosal) preservatives and many more bioactive and potentially toxic ingredients.

FACT #2.The FDA has licensed Tdap vaccines to be given once as a single dose pertussis booster shot to individuals over 10 or 11 years old. The CDC’s recommendation that doctors give every pregnant woman a Tdap vaccination during every pregnancy—regardless of whether a woman has already received one dose of Tdap—is an off-label use of the vaccine.

FACT #3.According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adequate testing has not been done in humans to demonstrate safety for pregnant women and it is not known whether the vaccines can cause fetal harm or affect reproduction capacity. The manufacturers of the Tdap vaccine state that human toxicity and fertility studies are inadequate and warn that Tdap should “be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.”

FACT #4.Drug companies did not test the safety and effectiveness of giving Tdap vaccine to pregnant women before the vaccines were licensed in the U.S. and there is almost no data on inflammatory or other biological responses to this vaccine that could affect pregnancy and birth outcomes.

In late 2014, the Ministry of Health of Brazil announced the introduction of the Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine for all pregnant women in that country as part of its routine vaccination program. The move was aimed at trying to contain the resurgence of pertussis in Brazil.

In December 2015, the Brazilian government declared an emergency after 2,400 Brazilian babies were found to be born with shrunken heads (microcephaly) and damaged brains since October.

Brazilian public health officials don’t know what is causing the increase in microcephaly cases in babies born in Brazil, but they are theorizing that it may be caused by a virus known as “Zika,” which is spread by mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti)—in the same way as is the West Nile virus.

The theory is largely based on the fact that they found the Zika virus in a baby with microcephaly following an autopsy of the dead child. The virus was also found in the amniotic fluid of two mothers whose babies had the condition.

Note that Zika is not a new virus; it has been around for decades. No explanation has been given as to why suddenly it could be causing all these cases of microcephaly. No one is seriously asking the question, “What has changed?”

There is no theorizing about the possibility that the cases of microcephaly could be linked to the mandating of the Tdap vaccine for all pregnant women in Brazil about 10 months earlier. The government has “assumed” the cause is a virus.

FACT—Drug companies did not test the safety and effectiveness of giving Tdap vaccine to pregnant women before the vaccines were licensed in the U.S. and there is almost no data on inflammatory or other biological responses to this vaccine that could affect pregnancy and birth outcomes.

FACT—According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adequate testing has not been done in humans to demonstrate safety for pregnant women and it is not known whether the vaccines can cause fetal harm or affect reproduction capacity. The manufacturers of the Tdap vaccine state that human toxicity and fertility studies are inadequate and warn that Tdap should “be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.”

FACT—There are ingredients pertussis containing Tdap vaccine that have not been fully evaluated for potential genotoxic or other adverse effects on the human fetus developing in the womb that may negatively affect health after birth, including aluminum adjuvants, mercury containing (Thimerosal) preservatives and many more bioactive and potentially toxic ingredients.

FACT—There are serious problems with outdated testing procedures for determining the potency and toxicity of pertussis vaccines and some scientists are calling for limits to be established for specific toxin content of pertussis-containing vaccines.

FACT—There are no published biological mechanism studies that assess pre-vaccination health status and measure changes in brain and immune function and chromosomal integrity after vaccination of pregnant women or their babies developing in the womb.

FACT—Since licensure of Tdap vaccine in the U.S., there have been no well designed prospective case controlled studies comparing the health outcomes of large groups of women who get pertussis containing Tdap vaccine during pregnancy either separately or simultaneously compared to those who do not get the vaccines, and no similar health outcome comparisons of their newborns at birth or in the first year of life have been conducted. Safety and effectiveness evaluations that have been conducted are either small, retrospective, compare vaccinated women to vaccinated women or have been performed by drug company or government health officials using unpublished data.

FACT—The FDA has licensed Tdap vaccines to be given once as a single dose pertussis booster shot to individuals over 10 or 11 years old. The CDC’s recommendation that doctors give every pregnant woman a Tdap vaccination during every pregnancy—regardless of whether a woman has already received one dose of Tdap—is an off-label use of the vaccine.

FACT—Injuries and deaths from pertussis-containing vaccines are the most compensated claims in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and influenza vaccine injuries and deaths are the second most compensated claim.

FACT—A 2013 published study evaluating reports of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) following vaccination in the U. S. Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and in a European vaccine reaction reporting system found that pertussis containing DTaP was among the vaccines most frequently associated with brain inflammation in children between birth and age five.

Tdap is manufactured by two pharmaceutical companies: Sanofi Pasteur of France and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of the United Kingdom.

The Sanofi Pasteur product contains aluminum phosphate, residual formaldehyde, residual glutaraldehyde, and 2-phenoxyethanola, along with the following growth mediums and process ingredients: Stainer-Scholte medium, casamino acids, dimethyl-beta-cyclodextrin, glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde, aluminum phosphate, modified Mueller-Miller casamino acid medium without beef heart infusion, ammonium sulfate, 2-phenoxyethanol, water for injection.

The GSK product contains aluminum hydroxide, sodium chloride, residual formaldehyde, polysorbate 80 (Tween 80), along with the following growth mediums and process ingredients: modified Latham medium derived from bovine casein, Fenton medium containing bovine extract, formaldehyde, Stainer-Scholte liquid medium, glutaraldehyde, aluminum hydroxide.

Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian government announced on January 15, 2016 it will direct funds to a biomedical research center (Sao Paulo-based Butantan Institute) to help develop a vaccine against Zika. Development of the vaccine is expected to take 3-5 years. Again, no consideration to the irony that you may be developing a vaccine to address a problem that may have been CAUSED by a vaccine, and that that new vaccine may COMPOUND the problem No consideration to the possibility that the answer to the problem may not be to do MORE, but rather to do LESS (simply STOP giving Tdcap to pregnant women).

The number of cases iof microcephaly in Brazil has grown to 3,530 babies, as of mid-January 2016. Fewer than 150 such cases were seen in all of 2014.

Most of the microcephaly cases have been concentrated in Brazil’s poor northeast, though cases in Rio de Janeiro and other big cities have also been on the rise, prompting people to stock up on mosquito repellent. Health officials are warning Brazilians—especially pregnant women—to stay inside when possible and wear plenty of bug spray if they have to go out.

Wanna look up the ingredients in mosquito spray? Oh, and what deadly insecticide do you reckon they’ll mass fumigate with? DDT perhaps?

There shouldnt be outrage and questions regarding the release of the multi millions of genetically modified (GM) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in April and July 2015 in Brazil que created this outbreak and prior to que in Malaysia, and before que secretly in the Cayman Islands by the British company Oxitec for profit and on the NYSE who may very well be Responsible for this outbreak and its mutation. The GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes was made with protein fragments inserted of E.coli, Herpes virus and cabbage. Male mosquitoes are not the only ones released and a small percentage of females are released too, the ones que can not be all separated. It’s unknown what a bite from a GM mosquitoes can do to humans because it’s all an experiment. Human consequências are completely unknown! Oxitec is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation on top of it. This is not a coincidence! These new Symptoms, Zika virus rare before the release of GM mosquitoes? Tetracycline invalidates Their dying and it can be gotten by mosquitoes from water and soil containing it. Oxitec in my opinion May Be Responsible for this and it’s ‘Crime Against Humanity.’ Now Oxitec wants to release more to conquer this outbreak Zika virus to make more money? this has not been tested on humans people!There is no way que this outbreak and epidemic in Brazil is coincidental.even more in the Brazilian Northeast where there is majority of cases, but this Brazilian region is known for severe drought centuries of the times of colonial Brazil and never had cases of this kind only after genetically modified mosquito infestation that was epidemic.virus has existed in africa decade and never had anencefalia cases caused by zika in Brazil e america central just after the mosquito transgenic where it was played that began to emerge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nacrqgeSIdQ

Scientists just documented the first case of Zika spreading through physical contact

A mysterious and extreme case of Zika in the US has shown that we still have a lot to learn when it comes to the virus – and suggests the virus may be capable of being spread by physical contact.

Earlier this year health authorities in Utah were baffled when a patient contracted Zika – but not via any of the usual channels through which the virus is known to spread.

Previously, scientists thought Zika could only be contracted from the bites of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, through semen, or by being passed on from pregnant women to their foetuses.

But a new study, led by researchers from the University of Utah, has examined the Utah episode, and concludes that Zika virus – at least in this very peculiar case – appears to have been spread through physical contact alone.

Not only that, but the virus could be deadlier than we first thought, because while the patient in this scenario was elderly, he was otherwise healthy when he contracted the virus, but died soon after in hospital.

While Zika has been known to kill adults before – in very rare instances – usually such fatalities occur when people have compromised immune systems, which wasn’t the case here.

“This rare case is helping us to understand the full spectrum of the disease, and the precautions we may need to take to avoid passing the virus from one person to another in specific situations,” says infectious disease specialist Sankar Swaminathan.

“This type of information could help us improve treatments for Zika as the virus continues to spread across the world and within our country.”

The circumstances of the case began when the elderly patient, a 73-year-old Salt Lake City resident, visited Mexico in May last year. During his trip, he was bitten by mosquitoes, which is the most likely explanation for how he contracted Zika.

Upon returning from his trip, he went to hospital experiencing inflammation, watery eyes, and a rapid heart rate.

With his condition deteriorating, the man’s 38-year-old son visited him in the hospital, and comforted his father, helping to reposition him in bed and wiping away his tears.

The father later died in hospital, and tests after his death confirmed he had Zika. But only a week after the father passed away, Swaminathan happened to notice that the son also had watery eyes – a common Zika symptom – and tests confirmed he too had contracted the virus.

What baffled the researchers was that the son – unlike the father – had not travelled to a Zika-infected area, nor had sex with anybody who was infected (or who had travelled to a Zika area). And Utah doesn’t have Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

So how did he catch Zika?

In these circumstances, the researchers conclude “infectious levels of virus may have been present in [the father’s] sweat or tears, both of which [the son] contacted without gloves.”

While there’s no precedent for this hypothesised channel of Zika transmission, it could be that the virus was able to spread due to the other perplexing anomaly of this case: an extraordinarily high concentration of virus in the father’s blood, at 200 million particles per millilitre.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Swaminathan. “The viral load was 100,000 times higher than what had been reported in other Zika cases, and was an unusually high amount for any infection.”

In light of this extreme viral load, the researchers think it may have been what enabled both the deadliness of Zika in this instance (killing the father), and its previously undocumented ability to spread purely by physical contact (infecting the son).

The son later recovered from his comparatively mild case of Zika, but while it’s an otherwise sad and somewhat disturbing story, the good news is that this strange episode tells us more about how Zika might be able to function – and it’s better to be prepared than not.

“This case expands our appreciation for how Zika virus can potentially spread from an infected patient to a non-infected patient without sexual contact or a mosquito vector,” says one of the team, Marc Couturier from the University of Utah’s ARUP Laboratories.

“This and any future cases will force the medical community to critically re-evaluate established triage processes for determining which patients receive Zika testing and which do not.”

As for Swaminathan, he says the questions raised by this unusual Utah infection will require further research to clear up – although there’s no guarantee on when such an extreme viral load may show up again.

“We may never see another case like this one,” says Swaminathan. “But one thing this case shows us is that we still have a lot to learn about Zika.”

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