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The Zika virus story
So, I'm hearing this story beginning to make the rounds on the internet: That the zika virus was patented by the Roosevelt Foundation in Africa (1947 - after FDR died), and that the mosquitos spreading it through South America are genetically mutated organisms deliberately introduced into the wild by Bill Gates, no less.

Anybody have any links to any published material on this story? (No "tin-foil hat" sites please.)
"All that is necessary for tyranny to succeed is for good men to do nothing." (unknown)

James Tracy: "There is sometimes an undue amount of paranoia among some conspiracy researchers that can contribute to flawed observations and analysis."

Gary Cornwell (Dept. Chief Counsel HSCA): "A fact merely marks the point at which we have agreed to let investigation cease."

Alan Ford: "Just because you believe it, that doesn't make it so."

This gives some details without taking sides.
The most relevant literature regarding what happened since September 11, 2001 is George Orwell's "1984".
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No, GM Mosquitoes Didn't Start The Zika Outbreak.

By Christie Wilcox | January 31, 2016 9:56 pm
[Image: ZIka_conspiracy_theory_cat-1024x720.jpg]
A new ridiculous rumor is spreading around the internets. According to conspiracy theorists, the recent outbreak of Zika can be blamed on the British biotech company Oxitec, which some are saying even intentionally caused the disease as a form of ethnic cleansing or population control. The articles all cite a lone Redditor who proposed the connection on January 25th to the Conspiracy subreddit. "There are no biological free lunches," says one commenter on the idea. "Releasing genetically altered species into the environment could have disastrous consequences" another added. "Maybe that's what some entities want to happen…?"
For some reason, it's been one of those months where random nonsense suddenly hits mainstream. Here are the facts: there's no evidence whatsoever to support this conspiracy theory, or any of the other bizarre, anti-science claims that have popped up in the past few weeks. So let's stop all of this right here, right now: The Earth is round, not flat (and it's definitely not hollow). Last year was the hottest year on record, and climate change is really happening (so please just stop, Mr. Cruz). And FFS, genetically modified mosquitoes didn't start the Zika outbreak.

Background on Zika
The Zika virus is a flavivirus closely related to notorious pathogens including dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in the genus Aedes, especially A. aegypti, which is a known vector for many of Zika's relatives. Symptoms of the infection appear three to twelve days post bite. Most people are asymptomatic, which means they show no signs of infection. The vast majority of those who do show signs of infection report fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. After a week or less, the symptoms tend to go away on their own. Serious complications have occurred, but they have been extremely rare.
The Zika virus isn't new. It was first isolated in 1947 from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest in Uganda, hence the pathogen's name. The first human cases were confirmed in Uganda and Tanzania in 1952, and by 1968, the virus had spread to Nigeria. But since then, the virus has found its way out of Africa. The first major outbreak occurred on the island of Yap in Micronesia for 13 weeks 2007, during which 185 Zika cases were suspected (49 of those were confirmed, with another 59 considered probable). Then, in October 2013, an outbreak began in French Polynesia; around 10,000 cases were reported, less than 100 of which presented with severe neurological or autoimmune complications. One confirmed case of autochthonous transmission occurred in Chile in 2014, which means a person was infected while they were in Chile rather than somewhere else. Cases were also reported that year from several Pacific Islands. The virus was detected in Chile until June 2014, but then it seemed to disappear.
Fast forward to May 2015, when the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. Since then, several thousand suspected cases of the disease and a previously unknown complicationa kind of birth defect known as microcephaly where the baby's brain is abnormally smallhave been reported from Brazil. (It's important to note that while the connection between the virus and microcephaly is strongly suspected, the link has yet to be conclusively demonstrated.)
Currently, there is no vaccine for Zika, though the recent rise in cases has spurred research efforts. Thus, preventing mosquito bites is the only prophylactic measure available.
The recent spread of the virus has been described as "explosive"; Zika has now been detected in 25 countries and territories. The rising concern over both the number of cases and reports of serious complications has led the most affected areas in Brazil to declare a state of emergency, and on Monday, The World Health Organization's Director-General will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus and the observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations. At this emergency meeting, the committee will discuss mitigation strategies and decide whether the organization will officially declare the virus a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern."
GM to the Rescue
[Image: 9261_lores.jpg]Aedes aegypti: the invasive mosquito in Brazil that carries Zika virus and other awful diseases.
Photo by James Gathany, c/o the CDC

The mosquito to blame for the outbreakAedes aegyptidoesn't belong in the Americas. It's native to Africa, and was only introduced in the new world when Europeans began to explore the globe. In the 20th century, mosquito control programs nearly eradicated the unwelcome menace from the Americas (largely thanks to the use of the controversial pesticide DDT); as late as the mid 1970s, Brazil and 15 other nations were Aedes aegypti-free. But despite the successes, eradication efforts were halted, allowing the mosquito to regain its lost territory.
[Image: figura1.gif]The distribution of Aedes aegypti in the Americas in 1970 and 2002, from the Centers for Disease Control

Effective control measures are expensive and difficult to maintain, so at the tail end of the 20th century and into the 21st, scientists began to explore creative means of controlling mosquito populations, including the use of genetic modification. Oxitec's mosquitoes are one of the most exciting technologies to have emerged from this period. Here's how they work, as I described in a post almost exactly a year ago:
While these mosquitoes are genetically modified, they aren't "cross-bred with the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria" (that would be an interkingdom ménage à trois!)and no, they cannot be "used to bite people and essentially make them immune to dengue fever and chikungunya" (they aren't carrying a vaccine!). The mosquitoes that Oxitec have designed are what scientists call "autocidal" or possess a "dominant lethal genetic system," which is mostly fancy wording for "they die all by themselves". The males carry inserted DNA which causes the mosquitoes to depend upon a dietary supplement that is easy to provide in the lab, but not available in nature. When the so-called mutants breed with normal females, all of the offspring require the missing dietary supplement because the suicide genes passed on from the males are genetically dominant. Thus, the offspring die before they can become adults. The idea is, if you release enough such males in an area, then the females won't have a choice but to mate with them. That will mean there will be few to no successful offspring in the next generation, and the population is effectively controlled.
Male mosquitoes don't bite people, so they cannot serve as transmission vectors for Zika or any other disease. As for fears that GM females will take over: less than 5% of all offspring survive in the laboratory, and as Glen Slade, director of Oxitec's Brazilian branch notes, those are the best possible conditions for survival. "It is considered unlikely that the survival rate is anywhere near that high in the harsher field conditions since offspring reaching adulthood will have been weakened by the self-limiting gene," he told me. And contrary to what the conspiracy theorists claim, scientists have shown that tetracycline in the environment doesn't increase that survival rate.
Brazil, a hotspot for dengue and other such diseases, is one of the countries where Oxitec is testing their mozziesso far, everywhere that Oxitec's mosquitoes have been released, the local populations have been suppressed by about 90%.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Now that we've covered the background on the situation, let's dig into the conspiracy theory. We'll start with the main argument laid out as evidence: that the Zika outbreak began in the same location at the same time as the first Oxitec release:
Zika Outbreak Epicenter In Same Area Where GM Mosquitoes Were Released In 2015
The D.C. Clothesline (@DCClothesline) January 29, 2016
Though it's often said, it's worth repeating: correlation doesn't equal causation. If it did, then Nicholas Cage is to blame for people drowning (Why, Nick? WHY?). But even beyond that, there are bigger problems with this supposed correlation: even by those maps, the site of release is on the fringe of the Zika hotspot, not the center of it. Just look at the two overlaid:
[Image: zika-virus-overlay-copy.jpg]The epicenter of the Zika outbreak is clearly on the coast, hundreds of kilometers from the noted location.

The epicenter of the outbreak and the release clearly don't line upthe epicenter is on the coast rather than inland where the map points. Furthermore, the first confirmed cases weren't reported in that area, but in the town of Camaçari, Bahia, which isunsurprisinglyon the coast and several hundred kilometers from the release site indicated.
But perhaps more importantly, the location on the map isn't where the mosquitoes were released. That map points to Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará, which is a solid 300 km away from Juazeiro, Bahiathe actual site of the mosquito trial. That location is even more on the edge of the Zika-affected area:
[Image: zika-virus-overlay-2.jpg]1: Juazeiro de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juazeiro, the actual location of Oxitec's release trial, about 300 km away and even further from the outbreak epicenter

The mistake was made initially by the Redditor who proposed the conspiracy theory and has been propagated through lazy journalistic practices by every proponent since. Here's a quick tip: if you're basing your conspiracy theory on location coincidence, it's probably a good idea to actually get the location right.
They're also wrong about the date. According to the D.C. Clothesline:
By July 2015, shortly after the GM mosquitoes were first released into the wild in Juazeiro, Brazil, Oxitec proudly announced they had "successfully controlled the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads dengue fever, chikungunya and zika virus, by reducing the target population by more than 90%."
However, GM mosquitoes weren't first released in Juazeiro, Bahia (let alone Juazeiro de Norte, Ceará) in 2015. Instead, the announcement by Oxitec was of the published results of a trial that occurred in Juazeiro between May 2011 and Sept 2012a fact which is clearly stated in the methods and results of the paper that Oxitec was so excited to share.
A new control effort employing Oxitec mosquitoes did begin in April 2015, but not in Juazeiro, or any of the northeastern states of Brazil where the disease outbreak is occurring. As another press release from Oxitec states, the 2015 releases of their GM mosquitoes were in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil:
Following approval by Brazil's National Biosafety Committee (CTNBio) for releases throughout the country, Piracicaba's CECAP/Eldorado district became the world's first municipality to partner directly with Oxitec and in April 2015 started releasing its self-limiting mosquitoes whose offspring do not survive. By the end of the calendar year, results had already indicated a reduction in wild mosquito larvae by 82%. Oxitec's efficacy trials across Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands all resulted in a greater than 90% suppression of the wild Ae. aegypti mosquito populationan unprecedented level of control.
Based on the positive results achieved to date, the Friendly Aedes aegypti Project' in CECAP/Eldorado district covering 5,000 people has been extended for another year. Additionally, Oxitec and Piracicaba have signed a letter of intent to expand the project to an area of 35,000-60,000 residents. This geographic region includes the city's center and was chosen due to the large flow of people commuting between it and surrounding neighborhoods which may contribute to the spread of infestations and infections.
[Image: Piracicaba-mosquito-control-results-1024x636.png]

Piracicaba, for the record, is more than 1300 miles away from the Zika epicenter:
[Image: zika-virus-overlay-3-copy.jpg]1: Juazeiro de Norte, the identified location in by conspiracy theorists. 2: Juazeiro, the actual location of Oxitec's 2011-2012 trial, and 3: Piracicaba, the location where mosquitoes began to be released starting in April 2015, more than 2,000 km from the disease epicenter.

So not only did the conspiracy theorists get the location of the first Brazil release wrong, they either got the date wrong, too, or got the location of the 2015 releases really, really off. Either way, the central argument that the release of GM mosquitoes by Oxitec coincides with the first cases of Zika virus simply doesn't hold up.
Scientists Speak Out
As this ludicrous conspiracy theory has spread, so, too, has the scientific opposition to it. "Frankly, I'm a little sick of this kind of anti-science platform," said vector ecologist Tanjim Hossain from the University of Miami, when I asked him what he thought. "This kind of fear mongering is not only irresponsible, but may very well be downright harmful to vulnerable populations from a global health perspective."
Despite the specious allusions made by proponents of the conspiracy, this is still not Jurassic Park, says Hossain.
"We have a problem where ZIKV is spreading rapidly and is widely suspected of causing serious health issues," he continued. "How do we solve this problem? An Integrated Vector Management (IVM) approach is key. We need to use all available tools, old and new, to combat the problem. GM mosquitoes are a fairly new tool in our arsenal. The way I see it, they have the potential to quickly reduce a local population of vector mosquitoes to near zero, and thereby can also reduce the risk of disease transmission. This kind of strategy could be particularly useful in a disease outbreak hotspot' because you could hypothetically stop the disease in its tracks so to speak."
Other scientists have shared similar sentiments. Alex Perkins, a biological science professor at Notre Dame, told Business Insider that rather than causing the outbreak, GM mosquitoes might be our best chance to fight it. "It could very well be the case that genetically modified mosquitos could end up being one of the most important tools that we have to combat Zika," Perkins said. "If anything, we should potentially be looking into using these more."
Brazilian authorities couldn't be happier with the results so far, and are eager to continue to fight these deadly mosquitoes by any means they can. "The initial project in CECAP/Eldorado district clearly showed that the friendly Aedes aegypti solution' made a big difference for the inhabitants of the area, helping to protect them from the mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya," said Pedro Mello, secretary of health in Piracicaba. He notes that during the 2014/2015 dengue season, before the trial there began, there were 133 cases of dengue. "In 2015/2016, after the beginning of the Friendly Aedes aegypti Project, we had only one case."
It's long past time to stop villainizing Oxitec's mosquitoes for crimes they didn't commit. Claire Bernish, The Daily MFail, Mirror and everyone else who has spread these baseless accusations: I'm talking to you. The original post was in the Conspiracy subredditwhat more of a red flag for "this is wildly inaccurate bullsh*t" do you need? (After all, if this is a legit source, where are your reports on the new hidden messages in the $100 bill? or why the Illuminati wants people to believe in aliens?). It's well known that large-scale conspiracy theories are mathematically challenged. Don't just post whatever crap is spewed on the internet because you know it'll get you a few clicks. It's dishonest, dangerous, and, frankly, deplorable to treat nonsense as possible truth just to prey upon your audience's very real fears of an emerging disease. You, with your complete lack of integrity, are maggots feeding on the decay of modern journalism, and I mean that with no disrespect to maggots.

Update February 2, 2016:
I want to be explicitly clear on a few points being brought up in the comments:
1) Mosquito genes, from genetic modification or otherwise, are not present in the Zika virus in Brazil. The whole genome of the Zika virus is tiny, and it's easily sequencedwhich is exactly what scientists in Brazil have done. That means there was no "jumping DNA" responsible, period. Given the importance of this outbreak, scientists published their sequencing results as openly and as quickly as possible. I'll say it again: They did not find any transposons or mosquito genes of any kind. They did, however, find some interesting mutational changes which may explain why the outbreak in Brazil seems to be worse than previous outbreaks; the mutational changes may have led to an increase in viral titers. The family of viruses that Zika belongs to are known to cause birth defects in rare cases, including microcephaly, so an increase in viral titers could be sufficient to explain the sudden uptick in cases, especially when you consider the other confounding factorsfactors which, as Oliviera Melo and his colleagues explain, include an increase in reporting (the more we look for a disease, the more we tend to find cases of it), a lack of childhood exposure to the virus in the outbreak areas (if you are infected by Zika as a kid, your body has some resistance or even immunity, so even if someone is exposed when pregnant, they don't have the same complications), or the rarity of the disease until now (it takes a very large number of cases to detect an increase in very rare complications).
There's another very simple way we know that the PiggyBac system didn't insert additional DNA into the Zika genome: Zika has no DNA. It's a single strand RNA virus roughly 10.8kb in size. The PiggyBac system can't insert anything without TTAA elements in a DNA genome. That's not even mentioning that the transposon used by Oxitec is 8.4kb so almost the same size as the entire virus! That kind of modification would not go unnoticed!
2) While some of the offspring of the Oxitec mosquitoes may survive, their numbers are so low that the population of mosquitoes still crashes. And yes, they have tested whether tetracycline levels in Brazil allow the mosquitoes to survive better, and they don't. I linked to this study above, but just to reiterate [underline added by me]:
Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of dengue fever, a viral disease which has an estimated incidence of 390 million infections annually. Conventional vector control methods have been unable to curb the transmission of the disease. We have previously reported a novel method of vector control using a tetracycline repressible self-limiting strain of Ae. aegypti OX513A which has achieved >90% suppression of wild populations.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the impact of tetracycline and its analogues on the phenotype of OX513A from the perspective of possible routes and levels of environmental exposure. We determined the minimum concentration of tetracycline and its analogues that will allow an increased survivorship and found these to be greater than the maximum concentration of tetracyclines found in known Ae. aegypti breeding sites and their surrounding areas. Furthermore, we determined that OX513A parents fed tetracycline are unable to pre-load their progeny with sufficient antidote to increase their survivorship. Finally, we studied the changes in concentration of tetracycline in the mass production rearing water of OX513A and the developing insect.
Together, these studies demonstrate that potential routes of exposure of OX513A individuals to tetracycline and its analogues in the environment are not expected to increase the survivorship of OX513A.

3) Epidemiologists say that the Zika outbreak "almost certainly" began in Recife, Brazil, a city almost 400 miles from the nearest Oxitec release location. There are no early cases, however few, from 400 miles inland; the viral outbreak started on the coast and then, as the disease spread, moved inland. If the Oxitec conspiracy theory is correct: how did a virus mutated in Juazeiro get 400 miles away before causing any microcephaly cases?
And just to be clear: to claim that anything done in Juazeiro caused an outbreak to occur 400 miles away is the same as claiming that whatever is done in Phoenix, AZ is directly responsible for disease outbreaks in Los Angeles, CA. In fact, those two cities are nearly 50 miles closer together than Juazeiro, BA and Recife, PE:
If Recife and Juazeiro are "the same area"… Juazeiro-Recife: 395.9 mi. LA-Phoenix: 357.2 mi. Boston-DC: 394.2 mi
Dr. Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie) February 2, 2016
4) Some have suggested that calling those who have uncritically spread the conspiracy theory "maggots" was inappropriate. It was more of a metaphor than name-calling, but I will concede: it was uncalled for to insult fly larvae in such a manner. I apologize to young dipterans everywhere.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
There is the suggestion that the Zika virus just confirmed in the US could have been sexually transmitted as the person has not travelled or been in any of the known infested areas.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Thank you for the article Magda, that was exactly the type of thing I'd wanted to read. Love the tinfoil hat on the kitty.
"All that is necessary for tyranny to succeed is for good men to do nothing." (unknown)

James Tracy: "There is sometimes an undue amount of paranoia among some conspiracy researchers that can contribute to flawed observations and analysis."

Gary Cornwell (Dept. Chief Counsel HSCA): "A fact merely marks the point at which we have agreed to let investigation cease."

Alan Ford: "Just because you believe it, that doesn't make it so."

Quote:An Argentine physicians' group has come forward to challenge the notion that the mosquito-spread Zika virus is responsible for a recent increase in Brazilian babies born with the birth defect microcephaly, saying that a toxic larvicide introduced into the area's water supplies is the real culprit.
The group, which calls itself Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, notes that a chemical larvicide that produces malformations in mosquitoes was introduced into the drinking water supply in 2014. This poison, Pyriproxyfen, was used in a massive state-run program aimed at controlling the mosquito population. Pyriproxyfen is manufactured by Sumimoto Chemical, a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto.
The most relevant literature regarding what happened since September 11, 2001 is George Orwell's "1984".
Thanks Carsten. I had been hearing about this Monsanto and GE connection. The Zika virus has been around for decades but the microencephaly seems to be a new symptom and may not be related.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

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