DR. MARINA GAFANOVICH
A group of physicians in Argentina has filed a claim that the sudden microcephaly epidemic in Brazil was not caused by the Zika virus after all. The physicians claim that a larvicide, placed in the country's water supply, is to blame. Months after the first Zika case was reported, the microcephaly outbreak continues to shake the world's medical community.
Maria moved slowly. She remained on the side of the bed. Her joints ached -- a side effect, her doctor said, of the Zika virus.
The pain in her elbows didn't match the pain in her heart as she contemplated the baby she would have in about six months. Would the child be healthy? Eight of her friends were pregnant as well. Five of them had already made the trip to Rio and found out the prognosis for the lives growing inside them.
Maria wondered if she would go to bed that night with good news -- or dread.
Women from all nations have been advised to exercise caution if they are contemplating a trip to Brazil. Microcephaly, a birth defect in newborn babies, has been connected to the Zika virus. Microcephaly is a condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally tiny heads.
The "company line" if being challenged by the Argentine physicians as they suspect that Zika is not to blame for the increase in microcephaly, but that a larvicide in Brazil's water supply is responsible.
The doctor's group, Physicians in Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), points to a 2014 incident where larvicide was dumped into Brazilian waterways to stop the spread of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks.
The larvicide, sold as Pyriproxyfen, was first applied in a large government-sponsored program, was meant to control the country's mosquito population. Pyriproxyfen is a larvicide produced by Sumitomo Chemical, a subsidiary of Monsanto.
Malformations found in multitudinous kids living in regions where the chemical was added is not an accident according to a PCST report.
One example is the instance where the Brazilian Health Ministry injected pyriproxyfen into lakes in Pernambuco. The proliferation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito -- the Zika virus carrier -- in Pernambuco is very high according to the PCST.
The first state to notice the problem was Pernambuco and the state contains 35% of total cases of microcephaly in the country.
According to PCST, during previous Zika epidemics, there have been zero instances of microcephaly linked to Zika. Over 75% of the population in countries where Zika has broken out had been infected with the mosquito-borne virus. For example, in Colombia, where there are many Zika cases, there are no records of microcephaly linked to the virus.
It was after the Colombia president announced that many of the nation's citizens were infected with Zika, but no case of microcephaly that the accusations and allegations started to come out. Over 3,000 pregnant women in Colombia were infected with Zika, but PCST reports show these women are carrying healthy fetuses -- or had already given birth to healthy babies.
Sumitomo Chemical says, on its website, that pyriproxyfen poses a minimal risk to birds, fish, and mammals. However, the evidence is overwhelming.
The Washington Post reported in January that experts examined over 700 cases of Zika-related microcephaly and over half were not related to Zika after all.
Even with all of the suspicions, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not linked Zika to microcephaly.
"While a link between Zika infection and microcephaly has not been established, the circumstantial evidence is suggestive and worrisome," said WHO Director Margaret Chan.
While there is no solid proof yet that the larvicide is behind microcephaly, the government of Grande do Sul, in the southern part of Brazil, suspended the use of the chemical pyriproxyfen.
Sumitomo Chemical, the maker of Pyriproxyfen, released a statement to reassure that its product is safe for use:
"Pyriproxyfen has shown no effects on the reproductive system or nervous system and has been approved for use in around 40 countries across the globe.
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