Part 1: “A Bill Gates-tied mosquito project…” – AP News June 30, 2023

This is Part 1 of a 6-part series showcasing the research compiled regarding Tom’s “Mosquitoes, Vaccines & Bill Gates” Substack Newsletter, penned on July 1, 2023.

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Below is a copy.  Source linked.

AP News:  A Bill Gates-tied mosquito project is not responsible for recent US malaria cases

BY ANGELO FICHERA
Published 10:33 AM CDT, June 30, 2023
CLAIM:

Rare malaria cases reported in Florida and Texas recently were caused by a disease-control initiative backed by Bill Gates that involved releasing genetically modified mosquitoes in the U.S.

AP’S ASSESSMENT:

False. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t finance any modified mosquito release projects in the U.S. And experts say the types of mosquitoes that are used for that initiative in Florida are not capable of transmitting malaria.

THE FACTS:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that the U.S. has seen five cases of malaria spread by mosquitoes in the last two months — the first time there’s been local spread in 20 years. There were four cases detected in Florida and one in Texas.

On social media — where false claims and conspiracy theories targeting Gates abound — some users quickly suggested that Gates-backed work involving mosquitoes was somehow responsible.

One tweet reads: “Malaria has been detected in Florida and Texas, CONVENIENTLY two states where Bill Gates was experimenting with GMO mosquitoes.”

“JOIN THE DOTS – Bill Gates Funded company Oxitec released billions of mosquitoes in Florida & Texas,” another tweet reads, suggesting a conspiracy is afoot to push a vaccine. “Malaria now in Florida & Texas for the first time in 20 years.”

But that theory twists the facts in more ways than one.

First of all, while the Gates Foundation has provided funding and support to combat malaria, it has not funded any work involving mosquito releases in the U.S., a spokesperson said.

The foundation has indeed supported biotech company Oxitec, which is releasing modified mosquitoes in Florida as part of a disease-control initiative, though a spokesperson for the company said its U.S. work is not funded by the Gates Foundation.

Regardless, Oxitec and experts say the notion that the company’s work could be responsible for the malaria spread is impossible for one simple reason: The modified mosquitoes being released are not the kinds that transmit malaria.

“There is absolutely no truth to these claims,” Oxitec spokesperson Joshua Van Raalte said in an email. “They are scientifically impossible.”

Oxitec’s work in the U.S. has involved releasing genetically modified, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the Florida Keys with the purpose of combating insect-borne diseases such as Dengue fever and the Zika virus. The intent is to have the modified mosquitoes mate with female mosquitoes and pass on a genetic change in a protein that would render any female offspring unable to survive — thus reducing the population of the insects that transmit disease.

Aedes aegypti cannot and do not transmit malaria, concurred Nora Besansky, a biology professor at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in mosquitoes.

A small subset of Anopheles mosquitoes are the only ones that do transmit human malaria, Besansky said in an email. She added that Oxitec only releases male Aedes mosquitoes — but it’s female mosquitoes that bite people for blood and “thus only the female mosquitoes transmit malaria parasites.”

Lawrence Reeves, an entomologist at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, part of the University of Florida, similarly noted that “most mosquito species are not vectors for any human pathogen.” He agreed that the mosquito releases from Oxitec “have nothing at all to do with malaria, and it’s absurd to claim otherwise.”

It’s also worth noting that the four malaria cases in Florida were reported in Sarasota County, not near the Florida Keys, where the Oxitec project is located, said Chad Huff, a spokesperson for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

And apart from the Florida Keys, Oxitec has not released mosquitoes anywhere else in the U.S., Van Raalte said.

While the local spread of malaria reported in Florida and Texas is rare, it’s not unprecedented, as the AP has reported. Since 1992, there’ve been 11 outbreaks involving malaria from mosquitoes in the U.S. The last one occurred in 2003 in Palm Beach County, Florida, where eight cases were reported.

For experts and officials, the cases are not as confounding or unexpected as some may think.

Zach Adelman, an entomology professor at Texas A&M University, said malaria was endemic in the southeastern U.S. for hundreds of years. That was curbed by changes to the landscape, such as draining marshes and swamps, and the use of insecticides. But international travel still presents an opportunity for people to bring malaria to the U.S. and for local mosquitoes to then transmit it.

Similarly, Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said in an email that “we have travel-related malaria cases in Texas every year, and the locally acquired Texas case appears to be related to people traveling to and from areas with malaria.”
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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

 

Source:  https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-bill-gates-oxitec-mosquitoes-malaria-cases-106569617546

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