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Mon Feb 12, 2018, 10:26 PM

Are Cicadas Responsible for Influenza?

This is the kind of stuff you think about when you have your second bout of influenza in a month, even though you got your flu vaccine and took Tamiflu on your first day of symptoms both times. Influenza sucks. Missed six days of work total and felt like dog poo for 14 days altogether. And there are 2 more strains out there. Oh boy. I think I'll hold my breath until spring.

Ok, so here is why I think that we might owe cicadas a great big round of applause for influenza.

First, influenza typically originates in Asia in birds. You know, all those big flocks of ducks and chickens that they insist upon keeping alive until they decide to butcher them and cook them fresh to cut down the chance of getting salmonella and campylobacter. They call some strains "bird flu" but all strains affect birds. Humans are just incidental targets IMHO.

So, if we assume that influenza evolved to control bird populations, the next step is consider where influenza strikes. Winter in the far north and far south. The rainy season around the equator. What is a natural enemy of birds that would exist in one state during cold months and monsoons and a different state during warm months/non monsoons? Flying insects that have a pupal state. I.e. Lepidoptera, moths. They stay underground when it is cold/rainy. They fly when it is nice. Once they get their wings, they have only one thing in mind--procreation. But when they are worms, maybe they can serve another purpose--like getting rid of predators that threaten the breeders.


What is the Lepidoptera whose "boom" (population surge every 13 or 17 years) is heralded by a sudden decrease in the local bird population about 6 months before the moth boom? The cicada.


Pretty fishy that. Almost as if the cicada which has been around for like a million years or longer has figured out a way to get rid of its biggest predator before it decides to take to the air and lay lots of eggs. But how would a larva buried underground do that?

What if the cicada larva was able to create a virus capable of infecting another larva, say another super/producer with a long (though not quite 13 or 17 years long) periodicity, the Gypsy moth. What if the cicada brewed up a dose of parasitic virus that made gypsy moth larva climb to the tops of trees and wait to be eaten by birds? And what if that parasitic virus had influenza virus attached to it, ready to infect the birds? See the link below for how such a parasite works.


It would not have to be the Gypsy Moth. I mention that as just one possibility. Any worm or larva that lives in the ground side by side with the cicada would do. But Gypsy Moths are so exuberant when they decide to go "boom."

Note that scientists are currently growing influenza vaccine in the tissues of--you guessed it---armyworms.


Coincidence? Maybe not. Here is a bit of trivia from 1939:


A scientist studying swine flu discovered that when a pig was infected with influenza, the pig's lung worms (nematodes in this case) picked up the virus, carried it and were able to transmit it to the same or another pig if given the opportunity. Meaning that scientists have known for a long time that insects can be carriers of influenza. If a pig's lung worm can carry flu, what other worms/insects can do the same?

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Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply Are Cicadas Responsible for Influenza? (Original post)
McCamy Taylor Feb 2018 OP
Cicada Feb 2018 #1
lunasun Feb 2018 #4
mrs_p Feb 2018 #2
jberryhill Feb 2018 #3
lunasun Feb 2018 #5
Kali Feb 2018 #6
PoindexterOglethorpe Feb 2018 #7
McCamy Taylor Feb 2018 #8
PoindexterOglethorpe Feb 2018 #9

Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Mon Feb 12, 2018, 10:39 PM

1. Damn. Theyre on to us.

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Response to Cicada (Reply #1)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 12:03 AM

4. Better go underground for awhile until things quiet down

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Mon Feb 12, 2018, 11:01 PM

2. I dont have enough time to address all points

Last edited Tue Feb 13, 2018, 08:36 PM - Edit history (1)

But I did want to point out a couple things regarding all the thought that all birds are susceptible to the flu

Bare with me, Iím sick with another infection (not flu). My PhD was in influenza so, as hard as I try to not engage in any influenza threads, sometimes I canít help myself.

To be susceptible to influenza A virus requires at least two things.

The right receptor on the hostís respiratory epithelial cell.

And the right virus that can bind to and then enter the host cell.

All influenza subtypes (the Hs and the Ns that make up a strain) have been found in waterfowl originallly (except for a bat H and N, but letís not go there).

When influenza jumps the species barrier - mutates enough to infect a new species and then be subsequently transmitted among the new species - it does not necessarily still infect birds. There are many many many many (I had to read a shit load for my dissertation) papers that show certain strains (like human influenza virus or equine influenza virus or canine influenza virus) do not infect waterfowl.

So there is a human H3N2 going around that originally came from birds. There is also a canine and equine H3N2. But those H3N2 subtypes do not necessarily infect other species.

Iíll get to the rest of the post, depending on if I survive the night. I didnít know anything could make me feel as bad as influenza, but other viruses are out there. Everyone wash hands and be safe.

Edit: obviously not thinking clearly. Equine H3N8 not H3N2 has been described. There is a canine H3N2 and H3N8

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Mon Feb 12, 2018, 11:17 PM

3. Interesting references


Answers In Genesis and the National (anti) Vaccination Information Center in one go.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 12:13 AM

5. Answers in genesis. Better to read SpillOver .That was good stories about illnesses passed to humans

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 12:15 AM

6. cicadas are not lepidoptera and they have nymphs/instars not larvea

they are hemiptera

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Original post)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 02:00 AM

7. Birds don't get sick from flu. Nor do pigs.

The constant mutating of influenza has to do mainly with the fact that in China pigs and poultry are raised together, so the virus hops back and forth between the two, mutating happily.

If we could change farming habits in China we'd go a long way to eliminating flu.

We don't need anything as exotic as cicadas to explain flu.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #7)

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 11:13 PM

8. Really? Then why do they give chickens tamiflu? I thought

it was to prevent the loss of the flock to flu? I'm gonna look this up.

Ok, this is what I found. It says that birds get sick with avian influenza. I realize that certain strains are more likely to be found in one host than another, but the different strains will hop species. That was why we had a human epidemic of swine flu in 2009.


Regarding the poor, maligned cicada, I have no proof that it is a culprit. It is just a possible example. It was a nematode--the pig lung worm--that was shown to be able to carry the virus and infect with it. Maybe there is a parasitic respiratory worm that benefits from making its host cough a lot and spew spores to other hosts that then get infected. Many possibilities. The only thing I am sure of is we have not solved the mystery of influenza yet. And we need to. Because our vaccines are now duds and resistance to the available treatments will be here soon.

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Response to McCamy Taylor (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 14, 2018, 01:47 AM

9. Have no idea why chickens are given tamiflu.

The thing is, poultry (including ducks as well as chickens) and pigs pass influenza viruses back and forth rather promiscuously. Mostly neither kind of creature gets sick, but meanwhile the influenza virus mutates like crazy. If the two kinds of animals were not raised together it would go a very, very long way in minimizing influenza.

Alas, this bit of information seems mostly lost.

If you haven't had a chance to read The Great Influenza by John M. Barry please do so. Anything I have stated incorrectly that he sets me straight on is obviously the correct information, and I apologize in advance for any and all errors I've made.

I believe the 1918 flu was a swine flu. The Barry book covers it in exquisite detail.

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