At this point, we are all hearing through various media channels about the “Zika crisis” in Brazil. Babies are being born with small heads (microcephaly) who will end up living a diminished lifespan if they survive at all. It is awful, and of course, the world wants a fast answer.
That is where the “Zika virus” metaphorically stepped in. This virus is now being blamed for the high occurrence of Guillain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly now present in northeast Brazil. However, is this the true culprit?
Let’s start out with some basic information about the virus.
The Zika virus is mosquito-borne illness, just like Dengue Fever or the West Nile Virus. Generally, the symptoms of this virus include fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. Hospitalization-associated with Zika is uncommon, and death is extremely rare. (Source)
Until recently, Zika was not associated with either microcephaly or Guillain-Barré syndrome, and it is not a new virus. It was discovered in 1947 and is currently present in areas of Asia and Africa. (Source)
A map of known Zika infections around the world.
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?” (Source)
Not even the CDC can confirm that Zika is the cause of these terrible birth defects.
“We do not know if Zika virus infection causes GBS [Guillain-Barré syndrome]. It is difficult to determine if any particular pathogen “caused” GBS. The Brazil Ministry of Health is reporting an increased number of people affected with GBS. The CDC is working to determine if Zika and GBS are related.”
“There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly (a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age) and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Knowledge of the link between Zika and these outcomes is evolving, but until more is known, the CDC recommends special precautions for the following groups…”
It may be that Zika is not the confirmed cause of the microcephaly and GBS cases currently popping up. It is still a theory and groups are still working towards discovering if there is a real connection between the two. (Source)
However, while keeping their focus on the virus, are they missing the real culprit?
Brazil had been experiencing high occurrences of whooping cough, or pertussis, in 2013. Because of this problem, it was mandated in October 2014 that all pregnant women would receive the TDAP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine. (Source)
This goes against standard practice for TDAP use.
This is a quote from the creator of the specific vaccine that was used:
“A developmental toxicity study has been performed in female rats at a dose approximately 40 times the human dose (on a mL/kg basis) and revealed no evidence of harm to the fetus due to BOOSTRIX [a TDAP vaccine]. Animal fertility studies have not been conducted with BOOSTRIX. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, BOOSTRIX should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.”
Some might argue that the high cases of whooping cough may mean the vaccine was “clearly needed,” but no one is looking into the fact that this vaccine policy came into effect roughly 7 months before cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome and microcephaly started to arise. That is enough time for any new mother to have received the vaccine at some point in their pregnancy.
When we started to do our own research about the Zika virus, we thought it was new, and we thought it was contained to Brazil. The fact that this virus is found in other places around the world and is not tied to either Guillain-Barré syndrome or microcephaly in those areas has some meaning. However, this does not mean that the TDAP is the apparent culprit.
It could be that the Zika virus in Brazil evolved in a way that does cause harm to an unborn child. Maybe it is a combination of the virus and the vaccine or maybe it is an unknown factor. We do not know, and scientists do not know either.
According to Scientific American:
“Zika virus has been grabbing headlines because of its links to an alarming birth defect called microcephaly. The data to provide evidence linking the relatively mild mosquito-borne disease and babies born with small heads and potential brain damage, however, are not yet conclusive. World Health Organization and U.S. government officials discussed this data gap today in a series of public comments and press briefings.”
They do not know the true cause yet and other groups are working towards yet another vaccine that they hope will “fix the problem.”
On January 28th, Street Insider published the following quote:
“Inovio Pharma CEO J. Joseph Kim said in a phone interview with Bloomberg that it plans to start testing its DNA-based Zika vaccine in non-human primates. Currently the vaccine is being tested on lab mice, but it is able to move faster than traditional vaccine development timelines. Testing in humans is targeted for this year.”