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Outcry over creation of GM smallpox virus

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Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 13 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. Not everything that is old is bad. It can be interesting to see how 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 very well have changed in the 13 years since I wrote this post. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find pretty embarrassing today.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

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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