Originally published July 28, 2023 7:50 am PDT
As alpha-gal syndrome (AGS), a tick-borne disease that triggers an allergic reaction to red meat, sees a steep rise in cases, eyebrows are being raised over a coincidental alignment with research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
AGS, first reported in Virginia in 2008, has seen an alarming increase over the past few years. According to a recent press release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 450,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for alpha-gal since 2010.
In 2021, the number of positive test results for AGS surged by 41.3% compared to 2017, and testing for alpha-gal peaked at 66,106 persons that year.
The same year, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a significant grant of $1,469,352 toward research into the Rhipicephalus microplus (“Asian blue”) tick. This tick is known to cause AGS, as verified by a publication in the ImmunoTargets and Therapy journal found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
The grant was channeled to Oxitec Ltd., a biotechnology company that genetically modified male ticks to carry a “self-limiting gene,” intending to control the tick population by releasing these engineered ticks to mate with wild females in high-infestation areas. Oxitec’s project purportedly aimed to address the global pest problem affecting cattle, a significant source of red meat.
In June 2023, after Oxitec reported high efficacy in its tick experimentation, the Gates Foundation provided an additional $4.8 million in funding.
However, the intertwining of Gates’s interests and this rise in AGS cases is drawing scrutiny. Gates holds stakes in pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer Inc. that produce antibiotics such as doxycycline, commonly used to treat tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease. Moreover, in 2017, his foundation granted over $1 million to Ceres Nanosciences, a diagnostics company specializing in Lyme disease detection.
In the food industry, Gates has significant investments in plant-based and lab-grown meat companies. He has backed companies such as Upside Foods, Good Meat, Beyond Meat, and Impossible Foods, some of which which have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the production and sale of meat substitute products.
While there is no definitive evidence linking Gates’s funding of tick research to the rise in AGS cases, the timing and the complexity of his interests have led to a growing call for more transparency and accountability.
But this isn’t the first time that Gates’s involvement in disease research and prevention has caused controversy. A similar series of events unfolded when Gates focused on malaria, a disease eradicated in the United States for decades, until recent developments.
Malaria was last detected in the U.S. back in 2003 when seven people in Palm Beach County were infected, as per the CDC. Fast forward to 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation turned its sights on malaria research, subsequently pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the cause, and increasing their malaria budget by 30% in 2014.
In a significant development, in July 2018, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) launched Krintafel (tafenoquine), a new treatment for Plasmodium vivax malaria. This marked the first new treatment for the disease in over six decades. Gates Foundation funding was pivotal in the drug’s development, a fact corroborated by Forbes. The Foundation continued to invest in tafenoquine research, backing various studies, including a Lancet-published article praising the drug’s performance.
Meanwhile, in 2019, the Foundation backed the “Injectable Artesunate Assessment Report,” establishing the efficacy of injectable artesunate, a malaria vaccine.
Notably, in September 2020, the Gates Foundation granted over $1.3 million to Oxitec Ltd., the same company involved in the aforementioned genetically engineered tick research, for “mosquito field trials.” These trials involved the release of genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, known vectors of diseases including malaria, into Florida and Texas following EPA approval in March 2022.
This move sparked outrage from locals who voiced concerns about being turned into “guinea pigs” for this “criminal” experiment, according to Florida resident Meagan Hull. Councilman Mark Gregg likened the GMO mosquitoes to “Frankenstein bugs.”
Fast forward to March 2023, and FFF Enterprises, a specialty vaccine distributor, announced it would start stocking the Gates-backed artesunate vaccine. Three months later, in June 2023, the CDC issued an alert about locally acquired malaria cases in Florida and Texas. Interestingly, the CDC, funded by the Gates Foundation, recommended rapid access to the artesunate vaccine.
As these series of events involving alpha-gal syndrome and malaria unfold, parallels can be drawn in the timing of the Gates Foundation’s funding and subsequent disease outbreaks. Though direct causality hasn’t been established, the correlation has led to calls for more in-depth investigations and heightened accountability. Transparency about these ties is paramount to alleviate public concerns and ensure ethical practices in disease prevention and treatment.