Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Ho Lee Crap
While cleaning out an old storage room, NIH found at least six vials of smallpox virus. Unsecured. Just sitting there. With no accompanying documentation.
Okay, so they've been found, and secured, and will be destroyed. By international agreement, the variola virus can be maintained at only two ultra-high security laboratories, one in Atlanta at the CDC, the other in southwestern Siberia. There has been considerable controversy about this and many people -- including YT -- have argued that these samples should be destroyed. The problem is that since smallpox was eradicated in 1979, no-one has been exposed or vaccinated. And, there isn't a lot of vaccine available. If smallpox were to get loose in the world -- don't even think about it.
It is not necessary to retain samples for any conceivable reason. Vaccine is made from a related virus, cowpox (hence "vaccine," from the Latin for cow). The genome is obviously fully described. Nobody is doing any research with variola nor is there any research that one can imagine doing. The only possible use of variola is as a weapon.
This discovery is disturbing because it suggests that there could be other overlooked samples somewhere -- or possibly not overlooked at all, but just kept in secret by some government laboratory somewhere. eww.