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Outcry over creation of GM smallpox virus


Warning: This post was published more than 12 years ago.

I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might have changed in the 12 years since I wrote this post.
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Many thanks for your understanding.

Outcry over creation of GM smallpox virus (Independent)

This is the great problem with eradicating viruses. It would obviously be silly not to keep samples of the virus, so that a vaccination can be prepared should the virus not have been completely irradicated, but keeping samples means that there’s always the risk that the virus will fall into the wrong hands, which means it’s only prudent to keep researching possible treatments – which leads to a greater possibility the virus will get out, or that a highly virulent strain will be developed by accident.

There’s no easy answer to the problem. But for right now, I’d be more worried about the (probable) forthcoming ‘flu pandemic than some smallpox risk. The risk of a ‘flu pandemic within just a few years killing millions is much greater than the risk of a biological attack using smallpox killing millions in the next few years.

For what it’s worth, I don’t see that introducing the jellyfish gene would be a particularly risky thing to do with this virus, and I wouldn’t be too worried about it if it did go ahead. I think Prof Donald Henderson has very good intentions in speaking out about this, and I can fully understand and sympathise with his point. However, I think that the current research should be given the go-ahead, but future research monitored extremely closely.

This 242nd post was filed under: News and Comment.

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Photo-a-day 362: The Killing (published 28th December 2012)

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Photo-a-day 99: BlackBerry Storm (published 3rd May 2014)

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