I have micocephaly on my mind because of the CDC's warning for pregnant women to avoid an area in Florida contaminated with mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.
Here are the CDC's Facts about Microcephaly:
So, there are many causes of this terrible condition.
OccurrenceMicrocephaly is not a common condition. State birth defects tracking systems have estimated that microcephaly ranges from 2 babies per 10,000 live births to about 12 babies per 10,000 live births in the Unites States.1
Causes and Risk FactorsThe causes of microcephaly in most babies are unknown. Some babies have microcephaly because of changes in their genes. Other causes of microcephaly, including severe microcephaly, can include the following exposures during pregnancy:
- Certain infections during pregnancy, such as rubella, toxoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus
- Severe malnutrition, meaning a lack of nutrients or not getting enough food
- Exposure to harmful substances, such as alcohol, certain drugs, or toxic chemicals
- Interruption of the blood supply to the baby’s brain during development
One important cause of microcephaly not mentioned by the CDC is ionizing radiation. Today I was reading and researching the 1947 Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission Report.
Micocephaly was one of the reproductive effects for pregnant women exposed to ionizing radiation from the atomic bombs deployed over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A group of researchers from Japan have even identified the gene whose downregulation by ionizing radiation may cause, or contribute significantly, to microcephaly:
Fujimori A1, Yaoi T, Ogi H, Wang B, Suetomi K, Sekine E, Yu D, Kato T, Takahashi S, Okayasu R, Itoh K, Fushiki S. Ionizing radiation downregulates ASPM, a gene responsible for microcephaly in humans. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 May 9;369(3):953-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2008.02.149. Epub 2008 Mar 10. PMID:18331833 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2008.02.149
Microcephaly is a malformation associated with in utero exposed atomic bomb survivors and can be induced in mice by fetal exposure to ionizing radiation (IR).
The pathogenesis of IR-induced microcephaly, however, has not been fully understood. Our analyses of high-coverage expression profiling (HiCEP) demonstrated that the abnormal spindle-like microcephaly associated gene (ASPM) was down-regulated in irradiated human diploid fibroblasts.
ASPM was recently reported as the causative gene for MCPH-5, the most common type of congenital microcephaly in humans. Here, we show that the expression of the Aspm gene was significantly reduced by IR in various human and murine cells. Additionally, Aspm was found downregulated in the irradiated fetal mouse brain, particularly in the ventricular zones. A similar suppression was observed in the irradiated neurosphere cultures.
This is the first report suggesting that the suppression of Aspm by IR could be the initial molecular target leading to the future microcephaly formation.
Funny that the CDC doesn't mention the established role of ionizing radiation in causing microcephaly.
Some of you reading this might think I'm insinuating that Fukushima fallout is responsible for the increase in microcephaly.
But that is not my intention because the leading alternative explanation for the increased incidents of microcephaly FOUND IN BRAZIL is heavy use of a particular pesticide:
New England Complex Systems Institute. "New doubts on Zika as cause of microcephaly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160624150813.htm
REPORT from Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Town regarding Dengue-Zika, microcephaly, and massive spraying with chemical poisons http://www.reduas.com.ar/report-from-physicians-in-the-crop-sprayed-town-regarding-dengue-zika-microcephaly-and-massive-spraying-with-chemical-poisons/
The chemical in question is pyroproxyfen, which is being used for weed control. It is manufactured by Sumitomo Chemical and was allegedly being used in water supplies (sounds crazy).
USA Today and other media outlets report that the pesticide theory had been put to rest. However, you will note that the Science Daily report dated June 2016 casts doubt on the Zika explanation for cases in Brazil.
Lix Szabo. February 16, 2016. Scientists debunk theory linking pesticide, not Zika, to birth defects, USA TODAY February 16, 2016 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/02/16/experts-dismiss-claims-pesticide-not-zika-causes-birth-defects/80451116/
New England Complex Systems Institute. "New doubts on Zika as cause of microcephaly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160624150813.htmIts hard to know what is causing the increased incidents of microcephaly. There might be multiple causes. Perhaps pesticides and Zika viruses are both to blame, particularly when combined. Or perhaps neither is the primary agent.
What I do know is that some agents of microcephaly are more politically expedient than other causes. I know that because the CDC did not mention the proven role of ionizing radiation in their list of causes. I know this is not a simple oversight because ionizing radiation rarely appears in lists of causes on US government webpages outside of those specifically and explicitly addressing the topic.
The causes that are most politically expedient might be the ones that dominate mass-media headlines and public policy.
I hate to think that this type of politics infuses public health but research priorities and funding are always shaped by social, political, economic and cultural relationships.
In the end, its hard to know what is real beyond more babies being born with microcephaly.
In some ways, the situation resembles the mass mortality events in the Pacific Ocean. There also, all I know for certain is a vast eco-system is showing signs of great distress in the forms of more compromised and dead animals and official explanations suffer from symptoms of fractures.