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Why we should worry about a resurrection of the deadly smallpox virus

| | April 2, 2019
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Image: Scott A. Miller
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The scientist who entered [Room 3C16] saw 12 mysterious cardboard boxes on a crowded shelf in the far left corner of the storage space and pried one open to see what it contained. Inside, dozens of long vials were packed in rolls of white cotton and sealed with melted glass; many of the labels were worn to the point of illegibility. The scientist noticed one vessel that held some loose, freeze-dried material. Its label bore a single decipherable word: “variola,” another word for smallpox.

The existence of the vials raised another chilling possibility: Could smallpox make a comeback? If these samples were left behind, who knows how many others could remain.

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As one of the world’s foremost experts on smallpox, [virologist David] Evans believes it’s only a matter of time before the disease—or one of its ugly cousins in the pox family—could resurface, brought to life by a hostile government, a terrorist, or an amateur biohacker using gene editing and commercially available DNA fragments.

If that occurs, he says, the world needs to be ready with the safest, most efficient vaccine possible.

Read full, original post: Synthetic biology could bring a pox on us all

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