Humanity's worst scourge, the smallpox virus, may finally wind up on death row in May if health officials decide to destroy the last known samples. The virus was eliminated in human populations more than 30 years ago, but several international groups want to kill any remaining virus samples stored in test tubes on two continents.
Destruction of the smallpox virus, which was eradicated in the 1970s, has been mulled since 1980, but World Health Organization officials renewed debate about the matter earlier this year and will decide the viruses' fate at an upcoming meeting.
Two labs possess the last known live samples of the variola virus — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and a Russian facility in Siberia. Officials in developing nations, where smallpox is more likely to spread should it resurface, have been pushing for their destruction since 1980. The World Health Assembly decided to kill the samples in 1996, but they have been granted stays of execution in the decade and a half since, with the United States, Russia and others arguing the virus samples could seed new vaccines and potential treatments for infected patients.
Epidemiologists believe smallpox has killed about one-third of those it has infected throughout history, accounting for hundreds of millions of victims dating back to ancient Egypt. A decade-long global vaccination effort eliminated the virus from human populations; the last natural case was found in October 1977 in Somalia. The elimination of Rinderpest, a cattle plague, will be only the second such disease eradication story in human history.
Officials in the U.S. and Russia have said they will fight efforts to set a destruction date, arguing the viruses are needed for research and to guard against bioterrorism. Some fear nations like North Korea or Iran may possess secret samples, although those countries deny it.
They should keep it just in case they want to fake terrorists attacks, for a reason to go to war with Iran. Like what they did with anthrax and Iraq.
I am no Epidemiologists, but why would it be necessary to destroy samples of a virus that the entire population has been vaccinated against?
Keeping the samples will only prove to be useful in furthering our understanding. This virus has been around for a long time and targets the human population. We can still learn from it.
I would be more afraid of a nation that has the ability to manipulate a vaccine to make it a more viral strain than those possessing the actual virus.
Who knows, we just might need it in the event of an alien invasion!!
We never know when or if this virus will help us kill other viruses. Cow pox helped prevent Small pox, if it weren't for Cow pox we may never have been able to find a vaccine for Small pox. It's best to keep under lock and key, but don't destroy it!
All4it, I believe "Virologist" is a more fitting term in this case.
That makes perfect sense, but unfortunately its not that simple. Its not talked about in the article, but since the eradication, only people who are very important, or are deemed at high risk for exposure are vaccinated. Also the vaccine wears of after about 10 years, so even if you have been vaccinated in your life, chances are you are no longer immune.
If it was a 100 percent known fact that those were the only samples on the planet, then yes they could be destroyed. However, during the cold war it was known that the soviets did expirimentation with the virus, and much like possible nuclear arms that vanished, its possible sizable amounts of smallpox could have as well.
I think it would be a terrible shame if sometime in the 24th century an alien probe came swooping into our solar system, leaving destruction in its wake, looking for a response from the smallpox virus. If only we had not foolishly hunted it to extinction in the 21st century so that its beautiful pox-song could be heard once again and turn away the alien probe...
If we destroy the sample or not should not be left up to a NON US government agency. It should be the choice of our government, elected by US citizens whether or not these samples are destroyed.
While I understand the fear that this could possibly end up in the wrong hands; I think it would be very foolish to do away with a pure sample of the virus. What happens if a variant of this virus, or resurgence of the virus is encountered? It's been known to happen. Avian flu is a prime example.
Don't take life to seriously! You'll never get out of it alive.
Sequence it, then kill it.
Cute article, but "World Health Officials" have absolutely nothing to do with why small pox is still being kept around in a lab in Britain and its Anglo-christian reps in the US)
It is being kept around by Britain/France as a Weapon of Mass Destruction to commit genocide in case the rest of their Toys of Genocide prove to be inadequate in the next war that they start.
Fun Fact: Anthrax was GIVEN to Sadam Hussain, by the British (through their US colony) shortly after he started a bloody 8-year war against Iran and the Kurds in 1980. It was supplied for "Medical Research" of course - thankfully he did not weaponize it as he was expected to.
While it is true that only a handful of people are vaccinated for smallpox now and there hasn't been a confirmed case in more than 30 years. Mother Nature has way of surprising us every now and then, getting rid of smallpox is a bad bad idea.
Whether it is, or is not, a good idea to the destroy smallpox is probably a moot point anyway. If the decision is made to destroy the virus, both the US and Russia will publicly state that they destroyed their last samples. But neither will actually do that, because neither country will believe that the other country didn't secretly hang on to some. For that reason, both countries will secretly keep samples.
Shikata ga nai
Or, we just do what they did in 2001: A Space Odyssey (or was it one of those sequils?). Just make a giant fault to store 1 sample of every known virus in history. We may not be able to make it on the moon (yet) but some remote base in Antarctica should suffice.
You should figure out how to re-create the virus, then destroy it. But never, EVER, destroy the vaccine!
Actualy, you could destroy the virus without affecting the vacine at all. The vaccine is really cowpox, wich is similiar enough for our immune systems to recognize it and fight smallpox, but not lethal or contagious in humans. So if were just talking about normal smallpox we theoretically could destroy all the samples of it and still be able to make vaccines.
The real reason we need to keep it is because a modified weaponized version of this virus has been shown to completely sidestep the immune systems of mice. If applied to humans, a vaccine which has remained mostly unchanged for almost 250 years wont be able to stop it.
It must be akin to holding a tiger by the tail; letting it go could be as dangerous as holding on. And to be sure, this predicament is entirely of our own making.
Fear is the commodity that will tip the scales.
NO reason to kill it, so many reasons to KEEP it... fear mongering is anti-productive
I think we've had enough exposure to it for the last hundred Years, and we really have no use for it besides preservation. If they find that it can be used to cure other horrible diseases or that it is still worth studying, then keep it. If not, destroy it. So only keep it if there is still something scientific to get out of it.
I say keep it. Even if there currently is no reason we could possibly need it, I would hate in 5+ years to hear that the world is coming to an end and it could have been prevented if we had just kept a sample of the virus! Besides I may be wrong but I am pretty sure we currently have samples of much more deadly viruses that have not been wiped out yet. So keeping the remaining smallpox samples stored in facilities that already contain other samples of deadly viruses that we cant afford not to study seems just as safe, if not safer in the long run than wiping out the samples completely.
Just my 2 cents.
I say we keep it. A sample of a virus should always be kept just for the sake of What if scenarios. The fact that it will be kept safe from the world. We just need to make sure that we do not destroy it. If a modified version of the virus is released we need the original to figure out the missing pieces.
Why in the hell should we get rid of it??
It killed millions of people. Thats somehting to keep since it's never existed. Long as it is around or was around thats something to keep if something bad happens http://bit.ly/h7xyfk