F Rosa Rubicondior: Malevolent Designer News - How Creationism's Divine Malevolence Is Adapting The Avian Flu Virus to Kill Marine Mammals

Friday 1 March 2024

Malevolent Designer News - How Creationism's Divine Malevolence Is Adapting The Avian Flu Virus to Kill Marine Mammals

Avian Influenza Virus Is Adapting to Spread to Marine Mammals | UC Davis

Elephant seals lie dead on a beach in Argentina following an outbreak of avian influenza in the region.
Photo: Maxi Jonas.
As an example of creationist double-think and intellectual bankruptcy, their attitude toward parasites like viruses is a classic:
  • "Only God is capable of designing organisms, so "Look at the trees!" and "What about irreducible complexity?"
  • "Something else created parasites like bacteria, worms and viruses, because God wouldn't do something like that!"

Simultaneously committing blasphemy and refuting their own argument from teleology!

I wonder then how that rarest of animals, the intellectually honest creationist copes with the news that the creator of the avian flu virus, H5N1, is in the process of adapting it to kill marine mammals such as elephant seals, just as it adapted the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a bat virus to one that could kill humans and cause economic collapse.

Evidence that it is doing so, if you believe viruses are created and don't evolve naturally, which dogma forbids a creationist from believing, comes in the form of a study by scientists from University of California, Davis, and the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in Argentina. The study, the first genomic characterization of H5N1 in marine wildlife on the Atlantic shore of South America, is published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases and is described in a UC Davis news release:
For the study, scientists collected brain samples from four sea lions, one fur seal and a tern found dead at the most affected sea lion rookery in Argentina. All tested positive for H5N1. Genome sequencing revealed that the virus was nearly identical in each of the samples. The samples shared the same mammal adaptation mutations that were previously detected in a few sea lions in Peru and Chile, and in a human case in Chile. Of note, the scientists found all these mutations also in the tern, the first such finding.

This confirms that while the virus may have adapted to marine mammals, it still has the ability to infect birds. It is a multi-species outbreak.

Agustina Rimondi, first author, Virologist
National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), Argentina.
Terns are among the hundreds of thousands of birds recently impacted by avian influenza.
Sea lions nap alongside cormorants in Argentina.
We know this because the virus sequence in the tern retained all mammal-adaptation mutations. Such mutations suggest a potential for transmission between marine mammals.

This virus is still relatively low risk for humans. As long as the virus continues to replicate in mammals, it may make it a higher concern for humans. That’s why it’s so important to conduct surveillance and provide early warning.

Marcela Uhart, senior author
Wildlife veterinarian
One Health Institute
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
The journey of H5N1

Uhart calls clade — the current variant of H5N1 – “this new monster.” It emerged in 2020, while the human world was reeling from a different pandemic, COVID-19. Avian influenza began killing tens of thousands of sea birds in Europe before moving to South Africa. In 2022, it entered the U.S. and Canada, threatening poultry and wild birds. It migrated to Peru and Chile in late 2022.

Then, almost exactly a year ago, in February 2023, highly pathogenic avian influenza entered Argentina for the first time. But it was not until August 2023 — when the virus was first found in sea lions at the tip of South America on the Atlantic coastline of Tierra del Fuego — that the virus unleashed its fatal potential in the region. From there, it moved swiftly northward, with deadly results, first for marine mammals and later for seabirds.

A recent paper Uhart co-authored showed a large outbreak killed 70% of elephant seal pups born in the 2023 breeding season. Mortality rates reached at least 96% by early November 2023 in the surveyed areas of Península Valdés in Argentina.

When it first came to Argentina, we didn’t know if it would affect elephant seals. We never imagined the magnitude of what was to come.

Marcela Uhart.
Since 2022, H5N1 in South America has killed at least 600,000 wild birds and 50,000 mammals, including elephant seals and sea lions in Argentina, Chile and Peru, and thousands of albatrosses in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands.

Moving south

The virus is now heading southward from South America, and scientists are deeply concerned about its potential impact on penguins and other wildlife in Antarctica.

Uhart and Ralph Vanstreels, her colleague at UC Davis’ Latin America Program in the School of Veterinary Medicine, are conducting wildlife surveillance for H5N1 in Antarctica this month.

We need to keep an eye on the ability of this virus to reach species that have never been exposed to an H5N1 infection before. The consequences in those species can be very severe.

Agustina Rimondi.
The concept of One Health honors the interconnectivity among humans, domestic animals, wildlife and the environment. Interspecies disease outbreaks are unsettling examples of such connections and require global collaboration among public, wildlife, agricultural, health and other sectors.

We are trying to be at the forefront of documenting, recording and providing early warning. We’ve been in this area for 30 years. We know these species. We work with scientists who have 30 years of data on these populations, so we can know what will be important for the future. We have to give voice to these poor creatures. Nobody’s taking note of how big this is.

Marcela Uhart.
Technical detail and background to the study is given in the Research Letter published in Emerging Infectious Diseases as an early release which could be subject to change before final publication:


We report full-genome characterization of highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) clade virus from an outbreak among sea lions (August 2023) in Argentina and possible spillover to fur seals and terns. Mammalian adaptation mutations in virus isolated from marine mammals and a human in Chile were detected in mammalian and avian hosts.

In February 2023, the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) in Argentina was detected in a wild goose near the border with Bolivia and Chile (Appendix Figure 1) (1). In contrast with Peru and Chile, where extensive mortality of seabirds and marine mammals had been attributed to the virus in the preceding months (2,3), the initial spread of HPAI H5N1 in Argentina was largely limited to backyard and industrial poultry (94 outbreaks), causing the death or disposal of 2.2 million birds. Argentina declared itself free from the disease in poultry on August 8, 2023; before then, HPAI H5N1 detections in wildlife in Argentina had been scarce (7 events during February–April) and limited to aquatic birds (Anatidae, Laridae, and Rallidae) (1,4). However, soon thereafter, the national animal health services confirmed HPAI H5N1 in South American sea lions (Otaria byronia) from Río Grande, southernmost Argentina. Over subsequent weeks, the virus was detected in sea lions northward along the Argentina coast, and sporadic cases also occurred in South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis). The most affected site was Punta Bermeja (Appendix Figure 1), the largest sea lion colony in Argentina, where an estimated 811 sea lions died over 2 months; minimal numbers (<5) of fur seals and terns were also affected (1,4).

In collaboration with provincial authorities and park rangers, we collected swab samples (oronasal, rectal, tracheal, lung, and brain) from 16 deceased sea lions, 1 fur seal, 1 great grebe (Podiceps major), and 1 South American tern (Sterna hirundinacea) discovered at Punta Bermeja on August 26, 2023. A sampled adult male sea lion was seen alive showing clinical signs consistent with HPAI infection (inability to stand or walk, muscular tremors and spasms, difficulty breathing, and abundant oral mucus). We tested the samples by real-time reverse transcription PCR targeting influenza A virus (5) and confirmed that all were positive. On the basis of viral RNA yields, we selected brain samples from 4 sea lions, 1 fur seal, and 1 tern for full-genome sequencing (Appendix Figure 2). We used maximum-likelihood tree phylogenetic analysis (6) and mutational analysis to compare the sequences (GenBank accession nos. OR987081–128) with representative HPAI H5N1 strains from South America.

Phylogenetic trees (Figure; Appendix Figure 2) showed that the viruses we identified belong to HPAI H5N1 clade and are closely related to H5N1 viruses that circulated in South America during 2022–2023. Our finding supports the hypothesis that, after introduction from North America into Peru in November 2022, HPAI H5N1 viruses continued spreading across the continent and into Argentina. Of note, the viruses from Punta Bermeja did not cluster with the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase sequences available from HPAI H5N1 first detected in a wild goose in Argentina. Instead, all gene segments from the viruses were closely related to virus sequences from sea lions in Chile and Peru (2; C. Pardo Roa, unpub. data, https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2023.06.30.547205v); 6 gene segments (all except polymerase basic protein 1 and nucleocapsid protein) also clustered with the virus isolated from a human in Chile (7). That finding suggests that viruses from Punta Bermeja may have been derived from a separate HPAI H5N1 introduction into Argentina. Because of the lack of genomic data for HPAI H5N1 viruses circulating in Argentina during February–July 2023, the finer scale pathways (local geographic routes and host species involved) of how these viruses arrived at Punta Bermeja remain unclear. Even so, the viruses that we report did not cluster with those from birds in Uruguay, Brazil, or Bird Island (Antarctica), possibly suggesting separate pathways of virus spread.

On the basis of previous comparisons with HPAI H5N1 isolates from other countries in South America, we identified 9 mutations already present in viruses infecting sea lions in Peru and Chile but not in the goose/Guangdong reference strain or in viruses from birds and mammals from North America in 2022 (Table). Specifically, we found Q591K and D701N mutations in polymerase basic 2 associated with increased pathogenicity to mammals (8). The virus we detected in the tern from South America also has those mutations, but they were absent from previously reported HPAI H5N1 viruses from avian hosts in South America (except for A/sanderling/Arica y Parinacota/240265/2023, which has the D701N mutation). That finding further supports the hypothesis that HPAI H5N1 viruses from sea lions from Peru and Chile acquired mammalian adaptation mutations that improved their ability to infect pinnipeds while possibly retaining the ability to infect avian hosts. Given the rapid and widespread dissemination of the viruses among pinnipeds in South America and the substantial associated mortalities (3,9), it seems likely that pinniped-to-pinniped transmission played a role in the spread of the mammal-adapted HPAI H5N1 viruses in the region. It is alarming that the HPAI H5N1 viruses infecting pinnipeds and seabirds in Argentina share the same mammalian adaptation mutations as the virus from the affected human in Chile, which highlights the potential threat posed by these viruses to public health.
Figure. Maximum-likelihood trees for hemagglutinin (A) and polymerase basic 2 (B) gene segments evaluated in study of highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) in Argentina compared with reference strains from other countries in South America. Tree areas have been enlarged at right to show detail. Red arrows indicate virus from marine mammals in Argentina; red asterisk indicates virus from a tern in Argentina. Black arrowhead along full tree in panel A indicates the hemagglutinin sequence from the first detection of HPAI H5N1 in a wild goose in Argentina. Node shape represents host group, and node color (and bars adjacent to trees) represents the region/country. Branch lengths are drawn proportionally to the extent of changes. Values adjacent to nodes represent bootstrap support >40. Scale bars indicate nucleotide substitutions per site.
Rimondi A, Vanstreels RET, Olivera V, Donini A, Lauriente MM, Uhart MM.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses from multispecies outbreak, Argentina, August 2023.
Emerg Infect Dis. 30(4) 2024 Apr [01 March 2024]. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid3004.231725

Copyright: © 2024 The authors.
Published by CDC. Open access
Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0)
The worrying thing is, if H5N1 can cross over into mammals, and there is now little doubt that it can, it could cross over into any other mammals, including humans, and creationism's pestilential creator could even outdo what it managed to achieve with SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

So the question for creationists is whether they would rather attribute this redesign of H5N1 so it can kill seals, to their god, making their god look like a malevolent sadist who designs ways to make its creation suffer and so increase the suffering in the world, or whether they would rather have people accept that the change in the virus that allowed it to infect seals, was an evolutionary change.

For some inexplicable reason, but probably from a desperate need to never admit to being wrong, most creationists appear to prefer we thought of their god as a pestilential malevolence who hates its creation.


The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting The Intelligent Design Hoax

ID is not a problem for science; rather science is a problem for ID. This book shows why. It exposes the fallacy of Intelligent Design by showing that, when examined in detail, biological systems are anything but intelligently designed. They show no signs of a plan and are quite ludicrously complex for whatever can be described as a purpose. The Intelligent Design movement relies on almost total ignorance of biological science and seemingly limitless credulity in its target marks. Its only real appeal appears to be to those who find science too difficult or too much trouble to learn yet want their opinions to be regarded as at least as important as those of scientists and experts in their fields.

Available in Hardcover, Paperback or ebook for Kindle


The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is Not Good

This book presents the reader with multiple examples of why, even if we accept Creationism's putative intelligent designer, any such entity can only be regarded as malevolent, designing ever-more ingenious ways to make life difficult for living things, including humans, for no other reason than the sheer pleasure of doing so. This putative creator has also given other creatures much better things like immune systems, eyesight and ability to regenerate limbs that it could have given to all its creation, including humans, but chose not to. This book will leave creationists with the dilemma of explaining why evolution by natural selection is the only plausible explanation for so many nasty little parasites that doesn't leave their creator looking like an ingenious, sadistic, misanthropic, malevolence finding ever more ways to increase pain and suffering in the world, and not the omnibenevolent, maximally good god that Creationists of all Abrahamic religions believe created everything. As with a previous book by this author, "The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax", this book comprehensively refutes any notion of intelligent design by anything resembling a loving, intelligent and maximally good god. Such evil could not exist in a universe created by such a god. Evil exists, therefore a maximally good, all-knowing, all-loving god does not.

Illustrated by Catherine Webber-Hounslow.

Available in Hardcover, Paperback or ebook for Kindle


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