The last strains are locked away in small vials inside high security labs in the US and Russia.
The countries are hanging onto the virus to create vaccines and drugs in case the killer ever returns with a vengeance.
But some nations and experts say it is long past time the vials were destroyed.
“Let’s destroy the virus and be done with it,” said Dr D A Henderson, who led the successful World Health Organisation (WHO) effort to destroy smallpox.
WHO members long ago agreed that eventually the last virus strains would be destroyed. The question was when.
But the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body, repeatedly has postponed that step.
The world’s health ministers go head to head later this month to debate, again, the fate of the vials.
Today, there are new generations of smallpox vaccine, and two long-sought antiviral treatments are in the pipeline. Is that enough?
“Despite these advances, we argue that there is more to be done” in improving protections, Dr. Inner Damon, poxvirus chief at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote Thursday in the journal PLoS Pathogens.
“The synthetic biology adds a new wrinkle to it,” Jimmy Kolker, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for global affairs, told The Associated Press.
“We now aren’t as sure that our countermeasures are going to be as effective as we’d thought even five years ago.”
It’s not clear how widely the US concerns are shared. Last fall two WHO committees reviewed smallpox research. One found no more need for the live virus; a majority of the other panel said it was needed only for further drug development.
“We believe that the smallpox research program is effectively complete and the case for destruction is stronger than ever,” said Lim Li Ching of the Third World Network, a group that lobbies on behalf of developing countries and wants the virus destroyed within two years.
“This isn’t something that should drag on forever, and the US doesn’t want it to drag on forever,” he said. “We can’t just ignore it.”
Synthetic biology is “not something you can do in your garage,” cautioned Dr Sylvie Briand, WHO’s director of pandemic diseases.
But destroying the virus isn’t the real issue, she said: “The real debate is what is the public health risk nowadays, and what are the response measures we have in hand to mitigate those risks.”
news.com.au 2 May 2014
The United States of America is facutally a country at war, and literally a war monger.
The weapons of mass distructions are kept not only on American soil but elsewhere, including their biological weapons.
Unless they are to be released on the general populous there is no need to keep them.
America injected syphillis into the population of Guatemala.