And here everyone thought the issue with what caused the rise in birth defects in women infected with the Zika virus was settled. We had scientists from Brazil and later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) telling us they had confirmed Zika as the culprit
behind the microcephaly cases in Brazil.
As Digital Journal
pointed out in a February story, microcephaly is a birth defect that can have a number of causes, from being congenital, caused by malnutrition, certain infections during pregnancy, interruption of the blood supply to the baby's brain during development, or exposure to harmful substances, such as alcohol, certain drugs, or toxic chemicals.
But Brazil's microcephaly cases continues to raise questions with a number of doctors and researchers, and it appears that they have good reason to be curious. With the advent of the Zika virus in the northeastern part of the country, there were eventually 1,500 confirmed cases where babies were born with skull deformities, a high number that was attributed to the Zika virus.
But a recent study carried out by researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI)
on the incidence of microcephaly in pregnant women infected with the Zika virus in Colombia raises some serious questions, and the biggest one is: "Where are the missing cases of microcephaly in Colombia and other countries affected by the Zika outbreak?"
The study, published in the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine
on June 15, used Zika surveillance data from August 9, 2015, when the virus was first identified in Colombia to April 2, 2016. Of the nearly 12,000 pregnant women with clinical symptoms of Zika infections up until March 28, 2016, "there were no cases of microcephaly reported as of May 2, 2016."
The study also says there were four cases of Zika and microcephaly reported for women who were symptomless for Zika infections and therefore not included in the study itself. The researchers ask, "Is it possible that more time is needed for births to give rise to the high numbers seen in Brazil?" But NECSI determined the four cases would be what was expected based on the background rate of infection, and not necessarily a result of the Zika virus.
It was also determined that because there were four cases of microcephaly
with the Zika virus that wasn't included in the study, then there must be four times the cases that have gone unreported or an additional 60,000 Zika-infected pregnancies in Colombia. The study also points out that until April 28 there has been a total of about 50 microcephaly cases in Colombia, but only the four already described were been connected to Zika.
NECSI is saying that in light of their study, a case for Zika being the cause of microcephaly in Brazil should be reconsidered, and they mention a pesticide called pyriproxyfen. It has been added to the drinking water supply in many of Brazil's northeastern states.
According to Science Daily
, the research team says pyriproxyfen is an analogue for insect juvenile hormone which is cross-reactive with retinoic acid, which is known to cause microcephaly. For this reason, a doctor's group in Brazil and Argentina, the Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center, and NECSI are calling for further studies on the possible link between microcephaly and pyriproxyfen.
Who do we believe? It is up to you. But did the women giving birth to malformed babies in the U.S. drink water doused with insecticides?