Friday, August 18, 2006

Would You Like Some Virus With That?

The FDA has approved a virus "spray" that will soon be added to your meat. It's a combination of six virus strains meant to kill a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes, and it's going to be going on hot dogs, luncheon meats, chicken, etc.

The viruses are grown in the bacteria and purified out to make this spray.

According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) data, 2500 people get "seriously ill" from Listeria every year, and of these 500 will die.

This raises a few scary points:

1) Virus spray may raise quite a few eyebrows, but the fact that this went through the FDA makes you wonder what other "food additives" are in our "food" that no one has heard about.

2) It can't be healthy to voluntarily eat viruses. I don't care if they are viruses that target bacteria (bacteriophages). With the latest information, there is no evidence that bacteriophages can harm us, but as a wise professor once said, 50% of what we learn in today's science and medicine is wrong - it's just that we have NO IDEA which 50%. From what we do know of viruses, they're tricky little things. A number of them infect humans and hide out for a long time (ie varicella/chicken pox virus, herpes simplex viruses, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus). Viruses are known to mutate (antigenic drift) and swap genetic material (antigenic shift), which is how different strains get more dangerous (think flu epidemics). As an example of how wrong we can be, for the longest time, scientists were adamant that humans couldn't get non-human strains of viruses, but then bird flu came along and proved that thought wrong. From a purely public health point of view, is it worth it for the sake of 500 lives to subject billions to something that may be harmful in the long run? If this virus were to mutate, it could be a problem that would affect the world and future generations. We just don't know enough to know how big of a problem this may turn into. Which suggests that #3, sadly, is alive and well.

3) Big business has BIG MONEY for lobbyists that can get things done. Intralytix, the company that produces this virus spray, stands to make a killing off of this "food additive."

8 Comments:

Blogger Jamie said...

Really excellent points, especially the one about the company that makes the products. After all, if it weren't for the RFID manufacturers, I doubt we'd be hearing so much about National Animal ID...

5:02 AM  
Anonymous kim said...

Well that's when I become a vegetarian except for the "steakburger" I purchase from a family farm in Texas.

Viruses are so damn wierd, you don't know what you are going to end up dealing with at the end of it all.....

11:15 PM  
Anonymous emmy said...

Not to mention that HPV is known to cause cervical cancer and virus' are suspected in other cancers and in diabetes. Lovely thought, feeding us virus'

1:57 PM  
Blogger always learning said...

Hi guys, thanks for reading. Jamie - agree with your comments 100%! Kim - vegetarian/vegan sounds better and better. I'm listening to Supersize Me on tape and am pretty horrified at what's going on in the meat/big business industries! Emmy - absolutely. And the associations of some viruses with cancers (HPV, HHV8 with kaposi's sarcome, EBV with head and neck cancer) are all relatively recent discoveries. Who knows when we'll find new associations that were always there, but we just never understood?

9:40 PM  
Anonymous B Miller said...

Viruses that infect bacteria do not infect eukaryotes. No worries about drift or swapping genetic material per se- phage do this, but they never become directly pathogenic to people.

There was a breif period in time where phage were touted as potential wonder weapons against pathogenic bacteria prior to the discovery of antibiotics. The big problem with phage is that people quickly develop antibodies to them and render them useless.

It's been estimated that phage out number bacteria by at least 10-1 in nature. You ingest them on a daily basis with no effect, certainlly no infection of your cells.

Viruses are not generic evil things that can infect everything that they come in to contact with. The vast majority are species specific, and none that I know of can cross kingdoms.

I do think this is a rather pointless effert however. All this will do is select for strains of Listeria that are resistant to the phage cocktail.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Wild Flower said...

I think this spinach/e-coli outbreak was deliberately set up so that the FDA & drug companies could push the "vital" life-death scare tactic on people so that the public would demand for the virus to be used on our food. Reverse physchology tactic. I can't be fooled. I don't want foreign viruses spray or grown into or put into/onto my food or my dog's food.

10:46 AM  
Blogger always learning said...

b miller - agree with all you've said, as would most of the medical community. All I'm saying is that what we know as "scientific truth" today may be wrong down the line. a century ago, no one would have thought that there was a link between HPV and cervical cancer. Or EBV and head and neck cancer. Or that HSV and VZV infect and become latent for the rest of the patient's life. We're constantly learning about the world around us, including viruses, and it just doesn't seem like a good idea to be intentionally eating viruses. I'm sure we injest many accidentally, but that's like saying, well, you eat some dirt on your potatoes and vegetables even though you try and wash them off. So there should be nothing wrong with spraying a little dirt on them and eating it...

Wild Flower - Hm, interesting idea. Do you think they really thought the public would that silly? Most people I know think it's a bad idea. And I agree - NO VIRUSES in our or our pets food!!

10:07 AM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Good to see some good points and critical thinking, especially in #2.

The assumption that bacteriophages do not cause disease in humans is definitely in the 50% wrong category. So very wrong.

4:44 AM  

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