We wish microcephaly was more strictly defined, but at present we would be comfortable with saying deletions, repetitions or mutations in any of over 200 genes will be a disaster for the child and its family and our health care and social support networks. It would more than a little helpful if the United States could find some budget to sequence the DNA of Brazilian children with Zika-linked microcephaly, not to mention look for a vaccine or a cure.
We realize Congressional Representatives are supposed to focus on district matters in the context of national policies. The California 13th District (centered around Oakland near us) has about 743,000 people (typical) and over 80,000 are disabled. That’s nearly 11% – higher than the state average and much higher than nearby districts. We would be unhappily confident that over 15,000 people in the district have some form of autism. An inability to speak and behavior challenges and cognitive difficulties are more than bad enough, but, as we are sure readers know, there are often other genetic problems from a long and depressing list. The overall frustration is, despite there being over 100 genes linked to autism scattered over all 23 chromosomes, they are not especially near genes for lactose intolerance, bradycardia or tachycardia (very low or very high heart rate), seizures, cleft palate and so on. It is clear that “simply” missing a part of a chromosome or having a part of a chromosome repeat is NOT why people with autism have other problems.
There are almost 40 MILLION disabled Americans. We wish we knew how many were autistic: we would not argue too loudly if someone claimed EIGHT MILLION. Note that does not include any from the 2 million imprisoned or the 5 million on parole or probation. Even so, that’s a lot of American families. Autism and other genetic syndromes do not start at San Diego and end at Seattle – they are a world-wide problems. Let’s say 150,000,000 families on our planet include a person with something like autism. The point is maybe someone could claim a mutation in both copies of a gene is just hard luck. But mutations on two or three or ten other genes each on distant chromosomes cannot be happenstance or coincidence. As the famed Bayesian statistician Goldfinger noted, it is enemy action.
The question is does prenatal exposure to tick- and mosquito-borne viruses cause very serious health problems.
Were Congresswoman Barbara Lee to rise and address the House of Representatives she could say that the United States of America probably cannot answer the question without international cooperation, but that if our country does not lead an effort to do so, no one else will.