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Daily Archives: March 8, 2011

Should last remaining known smallpox virus die?

By |March 8, 2011|Virus|

Source Washington Post

More than three decades after smallpox was eradicated, an international struggle has reemerged with new intensity about whether to destroy the only known specimens of the virus that causes one of the worst scourges to plague humanity.

Some public health authorities, infectious disease specialists and national security experts maintain that the time has come to finally autoclave hundreds of vials of the pathogen held in two high-security government labs in the United States and Russia.

“We feel the world would be safer without having these stocks in existence. Why risk it escaping and resurging again?” said Lin Li Ching, a researcher at the Third World Network, an international research and advocacy group based in Malaysia.

But the U.S. and Russian governments, which have repeatedly delayed incinerating the samples, are fighting for another stay of execution. Scientists need the living virus, they say, to make a better vaccine and finish developing the first treatments just in case the deadly microbe is somehow unleashed again – by accident, by a bioterrorist or by re-creating it from the computerized records of its DNA sequences.

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