Biological warfare is a crime against humanity. Irrefutable scientific evidence corroborating Cuba’s accusation made in 1983 that the virus of hemorrhagic dengue was introduced deliberately to the island republic.
The year was 1983. Cuban scientist Gustavo Kouri attended a Congress of Tropical Medicine held in Calgary, Canada, at which he offered data on the epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever that occurred in Cuba just two years earlier in 1981. It caused 158 deaths, of whom 101 were children . The attack caused an epidemic that affected 344,203 people. Total government spending devoted to deal with the epidemic amounted to 103.2 million dollars.
A participant in the meeting was a doctor from Guadalupe, Guzman Sciences. She told this writer once both presented papers on the subject and immediately, in that room full of people Professor Kouri read a statement in which he publicly denounced that the virus had been introduced into Cuba, intentionally by the United States.
“It was a short letter, but a lot of strength,” said the researcher, adding: “a great silence;everybody was shocked. Then there was applause, and some rose from their seats and left.”
A few years after that revelation, Cuban scientists in 1995 showed evidence of the similarity of the circulating strain in 1981 in Cuba, with the first of dengue-2 isolated in the world, known as reference or prototype. After that unusual event, texts appeared in international scientific publications that questioned these findings. But the truth would ultimately prevail outright. It was only a matter of time.
In August 2014 – three decades after the declaration of Professor Kourí in Calgary – Virology, the official organ of the Virology section of the International Union of Microbiological Societies, published a scientific article entitled First epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue the Americas, 1981: new insights into the causal agent. Its lead author was Dr. of Science Rosmari Rodríguez Roche, researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine Pedro Kouri (IPK), who was awarded with the result with the Grand Prize at the 2015 Annual Health Contest.
The study offers irrefutable scientific evidence to support the allegation made by Cuba.To understand how the strings of this were tied by thorough investigation, with overtones detective, Dr. Rosmari Rodriguez renders a little history.
“In the decade of the 90s, the IPK, in collaboration with similar institutions in other countries, studied the characterization of the strain causing the epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue 1981. This research allowed obtaining the sequence of about 300 base pairs, of the nearly 11,000 which has the complete viral genome, using manual sequencing methods and bioinformatics tools very simple, which were the ones that were available then.
“However, this small fragment was informative enough to show that the strain causing the epidemic of 1981 was very similar to the laboratory New Guinea C, isolated in 1944 (the first time that dengue 2 was isolated in the world),” Dr. Rodriguez explains.
Remember that this scientific finding was very controversial, both because of the similarity of the Cuban strain with those ancient ones in Southeast Asia, such as the limited data available sequence.
Those who challenged that result attributed it to contamination occurring in the Cuban laboratory used for processing the samples.
“The New Guinea C 44 is the prototype strain of dengue 2 and exists in almost all institutions which work on the issue of dengue. Given that systems amplification and sequencing of the genome are very sensitive, they had argued that the amplification of an unwanted virus as a result of improper handling of viral isolates occur,” the expert explains.
“Furthermore, since the virus mutate its genome -acumulan changes every year during replication in humans and mosquitoes, with a known-frequency evolution, some scholars said that if the virus circulating in Cuba in 1981 was so much to isolated in 1944, that is, he had very few mutations, then it was a contamination laboratory strain.
“They raised during circulation of this strain in nature, for a period of almost 40 years, was to be expected that a significant number of mutations to accumulate. Therefore the 1981 should have significant differences from the 1944 ‘.
To show that there was a laboratory contamination, it was necessary to sequence the entire genome of viral strains collected at different times of the epidemic. And that was what made Rosmari Rodriguez, who had been prepared for the occasion for years.
Shortly after the outbreak of dengue occurred in 1997 in the city of Santiago de Cuba, she graduated in radiochemistry and led a study on the evolution of the virus during this outbreak.
She had reached the IPK five years earlier, a recent graduate and after training at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, where she did her dissertation on protein characterization. However, “a lot of microbiology was for me a totally unknown world,” she says.
Since its inception, the IPK was linked to studies on dengue, and she completed a master’s degree in virology. “It was like starting a new career,” she says.
Armed with this knowledge, she came to the UK in early 2000 to work on a research project related to the causes of the reemergence of dengue hemorrhagic fever in Cuba in 1997. There she analyzed data collected during the epidemic of Santiago de Cuba virus in order to train in the amplification and sequencing of entire genomes.
In late 2006 and early 2007, she participated in a project that investigated the four serotypes of dengue during an epidemic period in Venezuela. As part of that study, scientists were trained in the use of advanced technologies in the field of sequencing while staying at the Genome Institute of Singapore. There she received a training sequence analysis with the use of bioinformatics tools High resolution, Natural History Museum.
After completing this learning process, the next step was the acquisition by the IPK, in 2008, of a modern automated sequencing technology. It was the right time to return those 1981 strains, kept for over 30 years in a freezer at -80 ° C, and the whole process for the first time in Cuba.
“We were able to amplify and sequence the entire genome of the original strains obtained at different times of the epidemic of 1981. Then, we use the bioinformatics tools that allowed us to define with high certainty the genetic relationship of 81 Cuban strains of C. Is New Guinea say, our study showed that they were indeed very similar, “says Rosmari.
although all were similar to that of New Guinea in 1944, there were differences between the Cuban strains, that is, that the virus had been changed during the epidemic period
“Now she continues, when we analyzed the sequences of strains of different times of the epidemic we note that, although all were similar to that of New Guinea in 1944, there were differences between the Cuban strains, that is, that the virus had been changed during the epidemic period.
“This is probably the most significant event of the research from the scientific point of view, because, on the one hand, it rejects the hypothesis of laboratory contamination, as if it were that all strains tested should have the same sequence. A contaminant does not mutate, it would be a virus in the laboratory, present in the environment or reagents used due to poor laboratory practice.
“Moreover, after observing the great similarity of the Cuban strains of 81 to the aforementioned reference, showed that as the first did not have enough mutations relative to the second, there was indeed a virus that was circulating in nature, but a laboratory strain, “he reveals the teacher. It was confirmation of the crime: the poison had been planted in Cuba.
Certain other elements also support this thesis, for example, the fact that the epidemic broke out in three parts of the country at once: eastern, central and west. “That does not usually happen very often, and was expressed at the time by Professor Kouri,” says Dr. Rodríguez Roche.
“Outbreaks of dengue is usually detected from an index case, in a given area, around which new cases appear. Then they begin to expand to other areas with the movement of infected people, and a gradual increase in the number of these is seen reaching epidemic peaks. This increase is largely dependent on the density of mosquitoes,” she adds.
The study conducted by the expert also revealed that Cuba did not export the hemorrhagic dengue to the Americas, as had been speculated, for successive epidemics in the region were caused by strains of dengue 2 of a different genotype at bringing together old Southeast Asia strains.
Following step by step the evolution of dengue epidemics in Cuba is exciting for Dr. Rodriguez. She relates that in 1981 Professor Gustavo Kouri caught her attention in the course of the epidemic: when the number of cases decreased significantly, the proportion of serious and deceased individuals increased, that is, the severity was higher at the end. This epidemiological observation is reiterated in that outbreak of Santiago de Cuba and in 2001 in Havana.
In explaining the causes of the increase in severity over time, Dr. Rodriguez states that it could be related to the changes undergone by the virus during their interaction between the mosquito and man, throughout the epidemic. This suggests, she says, that at the end of this, the potential (exists) for a more virulent strain, capable of producing severe dengue potential, which strongly depends on the epidemiological context in which it circulates.
To clarify the latter, the professor notes that the investigation on the epidemic of 1981 found that more than 98 per cent of those who had antibodies aggravated a previous infection with dengue-1 (serotype circulating in Cuba in 1977). That is why children who contracted the virus, and who were one to three years old, showed no serious clinical conditions; they had not been born when the outbreak of the late seventies occurred.
“Having discovered changes in the virus during the epidemic allows us to formulate new hypotheses regarding the role of this in the increasing severity of the disease over time. For these new studies it is necessary to find a model where you place the virus with and without these mutations found in the presence or absence of antibodies to a different serotype, and see how they can influence each mutation in the viral replication…
“The biggest difficulty is that there is no ideal animal model reproducing the disease seen in humans. Investigations are complex, but our present and future goals are focused on that line,” says the specialist.
(they) left us a legacy: greater modesty, honesty and dedication without limits to science
Last November, concerning the award she received for the scientific and political impact of her research, she thanked Infomed, Fidel, her colleagues and, above all, her teachers Gustavo Kouri Flores and Pedro More Lago, “who left us a legacy: greater modesty, honesty and dedication without limits to science.”
Evoking Pedro More Lago, with whom I was fortunate enough to work closely recalls that used to talk a lot with young people about their scientific adventures. “He ran, along Dr. Kouri, the hypothesis that the epidemic of 81 was a biological attack. I never met anyone more humble and simple, but endowed with natural intelligence, perhaps coming from fields Guaracabuya where he was born, back in the Escambray “.
Known as the father of Virology in Cuba, Pedro More Lake was who isolated the strain of dengue-1 circulating in the Cuban epidemic of 1977. Part of that flow in skillful hands, like those of Rosmari Rodríguez Roche, continues to provide answers.
Source: Bohemia and almacubanita.wordpress.com
A machine translation from Spanish and edited for grammar by TS.