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Pigs, ducks, chickens??? Why not IGUANAS?
Published on March 1, 2005 By Phil Osborn In Health & Medicine
The various strains of flu that emerge mainly from Asia come via one major route - birds and pigs raised together. Note that this combination is not necessary, but speeds the process of getting to humans. The birds catch the original version of the new mutated virus, then the pigs pick it up by eating the birds' droppings, but not immediately, as the virus has to go through a lot of random mutations before it can make the leap successfully to a mammal.

Once there, however, it is a much smaller jump to humans. Flu viruses can make the jump directly from birds, such as chickens, to humans, but it's much less likely. Reducing the numbers at any stage along the way also reduces the odds of the virus making it to us. Viruses don't just sit there biding their time until they finally strike the lucky combination that gets them into us. Instead, there is an ongoing ecology of infections, in which a given nasty virus ultimately engenders its own demise, given long enough, as other infectious agents steal its best genetic secrets, or it mutates into various different strains, often relatively harmless, which outcompete the lethal versions as killing the host is not generally the best way for a parasite to make it, and the birds pick up anti-body information from their surviving parents, or possibly other birds or parasites, and so force the virus to keep mutating to keep up, until it hits a milder combination once again, that doesn't trigger a huge immune response, and from there its generally all down hill, until the next lethal mutation comes along.

Got that? So, slowing down the virus doesn't just give us time. It also may result in the pandemic never happening at all. There's only that limited window of opportunity for the given virus to make it to us.

So, take a lesson from the migratory birds. They fly entire continents to get away from the endemic infections or predators that cannot survive for half the year without a host.

Rotate crops. That's my thought. Instead of chickens and ducks, for a while let's raise an animal that is several additional steps distant from us genetically, but by all accounts is quite delicious and nutritious and easy to raise, namely the Iguana!

There are plenty of web sites on raising iguanas, so I'll let the reader google around and make their own judgement on this.

Among the advantages, however, is that iguanas reproduce a LOT faster than chickens and even more rapidly than pigs. They lay a whole lot of eggs, and taking simple steps to protect the eggs and young from predators or other lethal conditions means that about 95% of these many eggs will hatch and grow to adulthood. Adult iguanas can get quite large very quickly - up in the small pig range, which means plenty of meat, which is generally considered a delicacy. People have been eating iguanas as a staple for thousands of years, and they are quite good at taking care of themselves while growing.

I don't know this for certain, but I suspect that the chances of getting a viral infection like the flu from an iguana is virtually nil, and simply moving to the iquana for a few seasons and then perhaps back to chickens, ducks and pigs as desired, might just stop the flu pipeline completely.

on Mar 02, 2005
If you notice, almost all major outbreaks start in fithy China..

Ever wonder why? I reckon its the horrid squarlor and nasty hygiene and things? I really don't know, but isn't it ironic most pandemics and new outbreaks start there, and nowhere else?

I remember reading that 98% of all Flu outbreaks originate there as well..

on Mar 02, 2005
It's simply the fact that the Chinese raise enormous numbers of pigs and poultry together, providing the ideal pathway for a virus to mutate its way to us. Birds everywhere are constantly hit with proto-flu type viruses, but we don't see many outbreaks into mammals or humans, because the viruses are very specific, and are in a constant battle to outwit the birds' immune systems, so they simply don't have any extra capacity to innovate twenty other changes just to make it into humans.

However, when you have billions of birds raised so that hundreds of millions of pigs are constantly consuming their virus-laden feces, then, millions of times over, you've got pigs already infected with some version of pig flu, and then exposed to trillions of bird-flu viruses, and chemistry happens. The genes get mixed up, and eventually, out of all this crap shoot, you get a nasty virus that has some of the bird flu genes - which the pig's immune system doesn't know quite what to do with, and some of the pig's flue genes, which have already found a path past the pig's defenses.

This still doesn't get it to us, but if you are exposed to infected pigs long enough and already have some form of human flu, then it's the same story again. So, iguanas in place of poultry might just break the chain enough to stop the process completely. Just slowing it down, means that the pigs will have more time to defeat the new virus, for one thing, while reducing the odds of it making the final step to us.