Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Why Are the World's Scientists Continuing To Take Chances With Smallpox?

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Medicine 190

Lasrick writes: MIT's Jeanne Guillemin looks at the recent blunders with smallpox and H5N1 at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to chronicle the fascinating history of smallpox eradication efforts and the attempts (thwarted by Western scientists) to destroy lab collections of the virus in order to make it truly extinct. "In 1986, with no new smallpox cases reported, the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, resolved to destroy the strain collections and make the virus extinct. But there was resistance to this; American scientists in particular wanted to continue their research." Within a few years, secret biological warfare programs were discovered in Moscow and in Iraq, and a new flurry of defensive research was funded. Nevertheless, Guillemin and others believe that changes in research methods, which no longer require the use of live viruses, mean that stocks of the live smallpox virus can and should finally be destroyed.

cancel ×

190 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

They need it... for duck huntin' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47509959)

Futurama reference. See also, mutated anthrax.

Same reason we keep developing nuclear weapons (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47509969)

Humanity will never stop playing with fire. It's built into our brains. And as long as some person, somewhere, somehow, has access to smallpox samples, scientists will continue studying it for "defensive research."

Re: Same reason we keep developing nuclear weapons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510011)

Agreed to some extent.

Now imagine that you hold on your hand the only vial of smallpox in the world. How powerful do you feel now?

Re: Same reason we keep developing nuclear weapons (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510307)

Smallpox is a terrible disease for sure, but is not a good candidate for biological warfare. The reason why scientists keep it alive has nothing to do with war for a change; they keep it alive because if was a very successful virus and understanding the reasons of said success may be beneficial in the future.

Sure, we can play safe and kill it based on flawed emotional responses but first, there is no guarantee that destroying the known samples will kill every existing reservoir, second: not having a sample will produce a slower response (and more dead and maimed children) if a variant of the virus emerges from somewhere else and finally we are discarding any positive application of the virus (like using a harmless mutation to carry a payload targeting cancer cells or similar)

Also, notice that even if the virus as it is somehow escapes or is intentionally released, it is relatively easy to detect and cure.

All in all, the benefits of keeping it alive for future research overweights the risks... the worst case scenario is a weaponized smallpox intentionally released in a civil population, but even in that case you WANT to have it somewhere to speed the development of a vaccine.

Re: Same reason we keep developing nuclear weapons (1)

kencurry (471519) | about 3 months ago | (#47510313)

"my precious...."

Re: Same reason we keep developing nuclear weapon (3, Funny)

SvnLyrBrto (62138) | about 3 months ago | (#47511125)

Why⦠what a fascinating idea. To hold in my hand that capsule⦠to know that life and death on such a level was my choice. Such power would set me up above the gods!

Re:Same reason we keep developing nuclear weapons (2)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 3 months ago | (#47510557)

... fire is a damn nice thing to have. cooking is good, boiling is good. combustion is good. the steam engine is good. coal is good. petrol is good... fire is life.

The problem is... (4, Insightful)

Lab Rat Jason (2495638) | about 3 months ago | (#47509971)

...you can't possibly guarantee the destruction of every sample. We have lax tracking policies to thank for that. If we voluntarily destroy all our live samples, and some other nation doesn't, then you can bet your next paycheck someone will use that as a weapon against us and we'll be totally powerless to retaliate (or so goes the argument).

Re:The problem is... (5, Informative)

guises (2423402) | about 3 months ago | (#47510127)

That is not the argument. I don't know what the argument is, but it can't be that - it doesn't make any sense. If we voluntarily destroy all our samples, and some other nation doesn't, then there will be that much less smallpox. This is a valuable goal in itself, even if it doesn't mean that the virus has been completely eradicated.

No one who wasn't literally insane would try to use smallpox as a weapon, the infection would inevitably spread back to the country which initiated it, and the idea that we would need samples of our own to retaliate is preposterous. For one thing, the entire premise of this scenario is that this other country has just given us all the samples that we could possibly want. For another, we still have tons and tons of missiles and bombs just sitting there, looking for a way to justify all of the money that we paid for them.

Re:The problem is... (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 3 months ago | (#47510179)

I agree that GP's point is silly. Btt we probably would need smallpox and and smallpox research to construct a vaccine against a weaponized smallpox. I remember after 9/11 how scared everyone was about weaponized anthrax, but at least we understood most everything about how anthrax operates.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510225)

The M.A.D. argument only works when you can guarantee the next dictator of your country isn't going to use it just because s/he thinks all the other countries are ganging up on him/her when /she is insanely power hungry and can't see the country's own poor people are being murdered by the police and imprisoned at the highest rate in the world, cough cough (don't look at those numbers USA citizens). Or I guess you can always justify killing other people in other countries more than feeding the starving people back home, especially when the biggest campaign kickbacks come from friends in the military industrial complex.

You have to be insane to think any country in the world should be allowed to use an indiscriminate killing weapon, robot, bomb, or humans who have been brainwashed to kill. That's the argument against M.A.D., that anyone arguing for it is truly insane because they are supporting the ideology of indiscriminate murder of an unlimited degree as a defense.

As most wars are started by dictators or a few people who have political power ambitions and no real involvement in the fighting of the wars anymore, I'd argue any country's politicians should be the first ones required to be on the battle field if they are supporting the active aggression into wars. That would decrease the number of idiots in the world, especially the political ones.

It may work with nuclear weapons because of how fearful people of out being killed by one bomb but the truth is that there are far more dangerous things if you look at how many people have died from Smallpox, it is one of them at ~300,000,000 deaths in the 20th century alone.

Nuclear bombs only killed 220,000 people. More people die from car accidents, 1,240,000 globally, than that.

So, the argument is why do we allow any scientist, country, or military to keep live samples?

Re:The problem is... (2)

bigfinger76 (2923613) | about 3 months ago | (#47510317)

So, the argument is why do we allow any scientist, country, or military to keep live samples?

Who is this we?

Re:The problem is... (1)

aevan (903814) | about 3 months ago | (#47510771)

Next SciFi movie special: Having a crisis of morality, a technician at a biological research facility attempts to destroy the last samples of a virulent strain. Improperly doing so, an ancient plague is revisited upon the world. Can a small town sheriff, his plucky daughter, and the random love interest survive this new apocalyptic world?

Re:The problem is... (1)

IronChef (164482) | about 3 months ago | (#47510991)

Find out in... POXPOCALYPSE!

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510975)

Obviously YOU and the rest of humanity that doesn't give a fuck what a bunch of military drones, scientists, and everyone else does when it comes to stuff that might kill oodles of people if someone forgets to close a container or lets some files slip into the wrong hands.

Re:The solution is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510519)

Our best defense against the future more serious threat (Big Pox) is to fully understand what we can study now (Small Pox).

If we get rid of this one, what will you fear next? weaponized toenail fungus?

Re:The problem is... (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 3 months ago | (#47510967)

I'm saying use it for vaccines against weapons not MAD.

Re:The problem is... (1)

Lab Rat Jason (2495638) | about 3 months ago | (#47510599)

Yes, I was being facetious... giving voice to the people who hang on to this crap for no good reason.

I'm mostly just astounded by the fact that our government... who knows EVERYTHING... doesn't know where they are keeping their deadly viruses... even if they aren't weaponized.

But hey... nobody ever accused the US government of being efficient.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47511067)

They don't know jack shit or john shit for that matter, it's a shit ass pile of data they don't even know what they are looking for in it - hence why they can't stop any shit from happening.

I at least get to debate and decide the fate of humanity by deciding on how to develop a technology that is far more weaponizable than any virus or fungus, but I only want to develop it as a peaceful energy technology. The problem is that it too much of a weapon and makes all the other weapons the militaries have look like toys, yes even their big shit bums that they drop on shitty people.

The US government is supposed to be the people of the US, except they hide what they do so much that **there is no representation** for the tax dollars they use to fund that hidden shit.

The problem is that humanity isn't exactly looking ready for the next energy revolution that will likely kill us all anyway...

Re:The problem is... (2)

s.petry (762400) | about 3 months ago | (#47511139)

Except that Smallpox is not a WMD, so "weaponized" smallpox is not a deadly disease if the person who contracted it receives very _basic_ medical treatment.

As an educated guess, the study into smallpox has been to figure out out why it is so contagious so that we can build our own great contagion. Merge the contagious properties of smallpox with the payload of Ebola and then you have a weapon.

Sad that we spend so much money learning how to kill each other instead of figuring out how to advance society, but this is the reality that people continue to buy in to.

Re:The problem is... (1)

fche (36607) | about 3 months ago | (#47510211)

"If we voluntarily destroy all our samples, and some other nation doesn't, then there will be that much less smallpox. This is a valuable goal in itself,"

Do you support unilateral disarmament too?

Re:The problem is... (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 3 months ago | (#47510853)

Do you support unilateral disarmament too?

Smallpox isn't a weapon. Smallpox is a disease. Should someone be stupid enough to re-introduce it to the world, it will circle back and hit them, too. So the only thing destroying live smallpox samples does is reduce the chances of a catastrophic screw-up.

Re:The problem is... (1)

fche (36607) | about 3 months ago | (#47510925)

"Smallpox isn't a weapon."

We're not talking taxonomy, we're talking possible utility.

"So the only thing destroying live smallpox samples does is reduce the chances of a catastrophic screw-up."

No, it also reduces the ability of labs to experiment on & learn from the thing.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510897)

Smallpox doesn't kill people right away. If someone uses smallpox as a form of weapon the ones they used it on have plenty of smallpox available to retaliate with if they haven't retaliated with more efficient means.

Possibly it can be used by "terrorists" if they just want to cause a massive scare without doing massive damage. Retaliating with the same means would just mean spreading smallpox to innocents.
As a form of weapon smallpox have no defensive purpose nor does it act as a deterrent.

Re:The problem is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510297)

No one who wasn't literally insane would try to use smallpox as a weapon, the infection would inevitably spread back to the country which initiated it, and the idea that we would need samples of our own to retaliate is preposterous.

You make two major assumptions that do not meet observed human behavior.

1) All factions capable of growing a weapon-scale batch of smallpox value civilians in their own area of control. -- Given the number of despotisms that actively starve the local populace so they can sell the UN aid supplies and amass luxuries, this is an unfounded belief.
2) Factions that would consider using smallpox would not make an effort to have at least enough vaccine ready for the ruling class. -- And this is also related to the real argument for keeping some around. It isn't about throwing some back at the enemy, it's about having some already isolated to skip a couple steps in preparing vaccines.

Re:The problem is... (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47510377)

No one who wasn't literally insane would try to use smallpox as a weapon, the infection would inevitably spread back to the country which initiated it, and the idea that we would need samples of our own to retaliate is preposterous.

Yes, the point is that it's like MAD and other weapons policies: you don't want to put down your gun (or shield, for that matter) while the other guy is still holding on to his. Despite what many people say, that is completely sane and rational behavior.

The thing OP kind of sidesteps is that while Western countries countries resisted complete eradication, they did so openly. Only later it was discovered that other countries (most of which were supposedly in favor of the eradication program) kept their own samples and research anyway. Which is a perfect illustration of why the West wanted to hang on to theirs, too.

It's easy enough to call such policies insane, but nobody wants to be the only "sane" person in the room while all the nutjobs still have their weapons. That kind of disproves it would a sane approach, yes?

Re:The problem is... (1)

guises (2423402) | about 3 months ago | (#47510481)

The point that I was trying to make is that comparing smallpox to a gun, or even a nuclear weapon, isn't accurate. Using smallpox as a weapon is MAD even if you're the only one using it. The purpose of pointing a gun at another armed person is the idea that if you shoot him first, and do it thoroughly enough, he then won't be able to shoot you. That is not the case with smallpox.

Having live samples available is also not needed or useful for producing the vaccine. The only argument that I've heard in favor of keeping some samples around which isn't totally loony, and this is a recent development, is that genetics manipulation has reached the point where artificially creating something comparable isn't insurmountably difficult anymore. So smallpox is less of a threat, basically by obsolescence. As this is a recent state of affairs however, this does not justify holding onto it as they have for the last few decades.

Re:The problem is... (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 3 months ago | (#47510805)

Large numbers of people in the US were vaccinated for smallpox in the 60's; pretty much everyone over 50 or so.

Not so now or anywhere else, either. :)

Re:The problem is... (1)

blue9steel (2758287) | about 3 months ago | (#47510463)

No one who wasn't literally insane would try to use smallpox as a weapon, the infection would inevitably spread back to the country which initiated it

Yes, because there aren't any insane people around who carry a grudge against us.

Re:The problem is... (3, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47510801)

Still doesn't justify keeping it around. We *have* a vaccine. We also have nukes, so retaliation by smallpox isn't necessary.

Re:The problem is... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510571)

It depends. Smallpox is not the best example, but the ideal virus to use as a biological weapon is a virus with long, mostly asymptomatic infectious phase and a high mortality rate. A virus with those characteristics could infect a large portion of the population before detection and basically wipe it out before effective measures can be taken (typically the first to fall to the infection are the first responders, nurses and MDs and chances are that by the time of the risk is apparent you won't have any effective personnel to deal with it)

Also, a weaponized virus is not necessarily invulnerable to treatment (that would make it too dangerous to handle), to be effective as a weapon is more than enough to require some sort of unusual treatment; if it manages to infect a large portion of the population before detection, the existing inventories of the treatment won't be enough to deal with it and by the time the logistics for production and distribution of the treatment are in place, the population will be most likely decimated.

Finally, there are people insane enough to invest time and money to develop biological weapons, the US government being the primary offender to date (google is your friend). A virus like in the scenario I describe is a "coward's weapon" to be used once on an unsuspecting population, not something you put in a warhead and launch in a war zone. For starters, is not meant to target enemy combatants, but an entire population, so using it is both a war crime and a crime against humanity and no nation would want to risk getting caught using it in the open. Thats why the most likely scenario is the use of intelligence services to start the epidemic by infecting a few unsuspecting civilians in an hostile nation (thats highly unlikely to leave any traces about the origin of the disease)

Sadly, if history serves as evidence, said methods are not beyond what our dear politicians are capable of.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510783)

> No one who wasn't literally insane

I'm not worried about the ones that are sane. However, the ones that are insane form governments and military.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510195)

We spend more than the rest of the world combined on our military, we don't need smallpox to retaliate.

Re:The problem is... (1)

aix tom (902140) | about 3 months ago | (#47510375)

But the "beauty" of sending smallpox as a weapon is that it could be done in a way that the source is unknown. Having your own samples isn't really useful for retaliations, but it could be useful for creating vaccines quickly to contain the outbreak.

once again, White Christans fuck over everybody! (0)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 months ago | (#47510603)

ain't gonna fall for that blanket trick a second time, white devil!

Re:once again, White Christans fuck over everybody (2)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about 3 months ago | (#47510833)

Of course not. It'll be bundled with a "free" cell phone for underdeveloped nations...or for populated nations. It'll be produced by the US and built in China, and nobody will have any idea where along the chain they got infected...

Re:once again, White Christans fuck over everybody (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47510841)

One English military officer suggested it - Lord Jeffrey Amherst. It's unknown if he actually attempted it. That's the entirety of the story. Weak attempt at religion bashing.

At least RTFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510305)

"...changes in research methods, which no longer require the use of live viruses, mean that stocks of the live smallpox virus can and should finally be destroyed."

Re:The problem is... (3, Interesting)

structural_biologist (1122693) | about 3 months ago | (#47510325)

We have had the ability for quite some time to synthesize viruses from scratch (the first report in the scientific literature came from the laboratory of poliovirus from scratch, published in 2002 [sciencemag.org] ). So, there is no reason to keep smallpox stocks around because we can just synthesize the virus if we need it. While this technology means that anyone with sufficient resources could download the (publically available smallpox genome [nih.gov] , and synthesize it, the same technology also enables scientists to more rapidly generate vaccines [sciencemag.org] without having to start with a physical sample of the virus.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510907)

Ugh... biological weapons are murdering indiscriminately: elderly, children, babies and other non-combatants; no control over collateral damage.
I would refuse to wage such disgraceful war even as retaliation; not to even mention that it endangers your own population as you would need to vaccinate everybody.

Re:The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47511081)

Retaliate? No, I think they're worried about not being able to DEFEND.

This stuff is horrible but it can be used to make vaccines, etc.

We made everything else extinct (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 months ago | (#47509975)

We should give some lifeform a break

Re:We made everything else extinct (1)

Dins (2538550) | about 3 months ago | (#47510203)

Sure, but couldn't we stick with ones like cute puppies, fluffy kittens, or bald eagles if we're handing out breaks? I mean, if we HAVE to "accidentally" let a lifeform go extinct, smallpox has my vote!

Re:We made everything else extinct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510573)

Viruses aren't alive.

Re:We made everything else extinct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510851)

Neither are you

Better safe than sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47509983)

Destroying smallpox samples doesn't magically erase the disease from existence.

Re:Better safe than sorry (2)

MouseR (3264) | about 3 months ago | (#47510115)

Plus, having some in stock allows the the create of a vaccine if by some chance it ever emerges again.

Re:Better safe than sorry (2)

Dins (2538550) | about 3 months ago | (#47510213)

If it emerges again, I imagine finding a sample of the virus won't exactly be a problem...

Re:Better safe than sorry (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47510291)

If it emerges again t won't be exactly the same. Best to be prepared ahead of time instead of spending months, or years after it emerges trying to figure it out.
. Meaning we will \have learned more techniques to help us respond to different vectors, not that it will reemerge exactly like something we have in a lab.
plus, there is still a lot to learn fro it that applies to may viruses.

Re:Better safe than sorry (3, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | about 3 months ago | (#47511037)

If it's not exactly the same then what we've got wouldn't be very useful.

I'm with the "destroy it" crowd. If someone attacks us with smallpox, nuke the fuck out of them.

Re:Better safe than sorry (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47510845)

We've had an anthrax vaccines since the 1800's.

Re:Better safe than sorry (3, Insightful)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47510277)

Destroying smallpox samples doesn't magically erase the disease from existence.

Correct.

In erases it from existence by non-magic, real, tangible methods (e.g. destroying every last living member of the species).

Re:Better safe than sorry (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 3 months ago | (#47510597)

we've thought extinct multiple species before... like macroscopic seeable species... and then been really surprised when a member or two of said species fell out of a bush in front of a cameraman... don't be naive.

Re:Better safe than sorry (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 3 months ago | (#47510705)

Sure, there's a long, long list of Lazarus species, once thought dead but found alive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

And we might clone back an Ibex someday again...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

But the list of extinct species vastly outnumbers the Lazarus list, and includes plenty that we're directly responsible for with our own hands.

Re:Better safe than sorry (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 3 months ago | (#47510793)

yeah, we know, things die real good around us humans for some reason.

the point was, we suck at knowing things, even when those things are big enough for us to see.

Re:Better safe than sorry (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 3 months ago | (#47510847)

True, but macroscopic species can survive on their own. Viruses need to infect hosts to spread, and many viruses don't remain viable for long outside of a host. From what I can find, it seems like smallpox is such a virus.

Re:Better safe than sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47511001)

I think s/he should have said "no new smallpox cases reported" to WHO != no smallpox cases in the wild. FWIW I witnessed a couple of random smallpox cases in the 90s, so I'd bet good money that even now it's not entirely extinct.

Mr. Self Destruct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47509995)

Got to keep our options open for ending the world.

Re:Mr. Self Destruct (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510025)

I wanna fuck everyone in the world
I wanna do something
that matters

Read The Demon in the Freezer (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 3 months ago | (#47510003)

Short answer, smallpox control has never really been that good. Also an answer - each government wants to keep the only supply as a potential weapon.

Re:Read The Demon in the Freezer (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47510087)

Potential defenses. It would be a stupid, horrible, and backfire in a lot of ways for a government to use it as a weapon. SOmething government have known since WWI
Globally based theologically motivate nut jobs on the other hand, they won't care cause..'god'.

What a stupid question (5, Interesting)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 3 months ago | (#47510021)

"Why are scientists continuing to take chances with uranium?"
"Why are scientists continuing to take chances with high voltage?"
"Why are scientists continuing to take chances with dimethyl mercury?"

Because science.

Also, there's no reason to obsess over the presence of a few virus particles in a jar on a shelf somewhere, if we have the source code in the form of its gene sequence. In that case we'll be able to resynthesize the virus at our leisure, at some point in the not-too-distant future.

And if we don't already have the gene sequence in hand, well, that's a problem in itself.

Re:What a stupid question (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47510055)

Well, we wold need the virus for experimentation.
Of course if we can do it at leisure, then so can everyone else.

Re:What a stupid question (2)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 3 months ago | (#47510109)

i'd say yes, but i'd hesitate still.

epigenetic mechanisms are still being explored, and non-nucleotide based heredity like matrilineal passing of mitochondria. Remaking a virus from it's sequence seems like it should be really easy, and if there's any organism/automata that will be made first, it'll be a virus... but even still, there might be some transient quality that is... stored in ram and not in persistent memory that once lost is truly lost.

serious ?: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510387)

if we have the sequence(s) & it can be replicated can it ever actually be considered eradicated?

[edit: ironically enough my captcha word was "pathogen" :D ]

Re:serious ?: (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 3 months ago | (#47510617)

again, something might be lost in the reproduction. we don't know enough about the transient interactions to know if anything important is.

Re:What a stupid question (3, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 months ago | (#47510187)

And if we don't already have the gene sequence in hand, well, that's a problem in itself.

What do you think the odds are that you could download the smallpox genome off The Pirate Bay or some TOR site?

Re:What a stupid question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510829)

I can't believe that in 2014 scientists are still continuing to take chances with Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) as well !!!

Benefits (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510047)

They take chances with it because the benefits outweighs the risks.
How about we focus on those things that actually gets people hurt, like banksters taking chances with the economy and politicians using the army to play chicken-race. You know, the stuff that actually gets innocent people killed.

In the case of smallpox what would happen is that the scientist screwing up might get infected and placed in quarantine. Even in the case of an actual smallpox outbreak it can be contained again with proper vaccination.

Re:Benefits (2)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47510869)

"They take chances with it because the benefits outweighs the risks." A supposition on your part. No more, no less.

Game theory (2)

Falos (2905315) | about 3 months ago | (#47510091)

It's an inferior move to reduce your options and throw away something irreversibly. You don't delete documents when you have abundant storage, you don't discard items in a video game with endless inventory.

I'll accept that having poorly tracked, poorly secured, poorly vetted, poorly restricted, and/or poorly located samples keeps them from being a benign non-factor as above.

I don't accept that throwing them away (the ones we know about) is the only counter. Hell, we can spare a few grams of payload and put one in space.

Re:Game theory (2)

kbeech (660054) | about 3 months ago | (#47510163)

Have Buckaroo Bonzai drop it off in the Eighth Dimension to keep Doctor Lizardo busy!

Re:Game theory (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 months ago | (#47510361)

I don't accept that throwing them away (the ones we know about) is the only counter. Hell, we can spare a few grams of payload and put one in space.

And wind up with *super*smallpox? Good fucking plan, Einstein!

Actually, good fucking plan. Let's do it.

Um... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510129)

Those "recent blunders" were cases in which they thought they had destroyed samples, but they had not.

If they'd decided to destroy "all" samples in 1986, those samples would not have been destroyed, because nobody knew they existed.

Furthermore, there are smallpox victims buried in permafrost. Not to mention the published genome sequence.

Permanently eliminating all smallpox samples isn't even possible. If you're going to decide whether to destroy a particular sample, you have to keep that in mind. Personally I tend to suspect you're better off to keep some around, in a place where you can find it, in case some of the stuff that you don't know about gets loose and starts causing disease.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510135)

Because its the perfect mass killer untraceable to the bastards that spread it. It fits perfectly into the model of all but 500,000,000 dead according to the Georgia guidestones..

Beyond human efforts. (4, Interesting)

Doubting Sapien (2448658) | about 3 months ago | (#47510157)

Laboratory samples are not necessarily the only sources of still viable small pox virus. With climate change now a global reality, thawing of the arctic permafrost means that the remains of victims who died of smallpox before eradication, even if buried (but especially if not), can potentially still release the disease into the current population. There was some news a while ago when the the Spanish Flu of 1918 was recovered in this way, albeit intentionally in the interest of science. But who knows if/when nature should take it's course this way with small pox, without our help?

Re:Beyond human efforts. (1)

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) | about 3 months ago | (#47510343)

There was some news a while ago when the the Spanish Flu of 1918 was recovered in this way, albeit intentionally in the interest of science.

Source for this story?

Re:Beyond human efforts. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510433)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070702145610.htm

"In a mass grave in a remote Inuit village near the town of Brevig Mission, a large Inuit woman lay buried under more than six feet of ice and dirt for more than 75 years. The permafrost plus the woman's ample fat stores kept the virus in her lungs so well preserved that when a team of scientists exhumed her body in the late 1990s, they could recover enough viral RNA to sequence the 1918 strain in its entirety. This remarkable good fortune enabled these scientists to open a window onto a past pandemic--and perhaps gain a foothold for preventing a future one."

Not like it doesn't exist in more dangerous places (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510161)

If forgotten, still infectious smallpox scabs are floating around, why does it matter if a couple of extremely secure and capable labs have a sample?

We don't *think* we need the samples for anything, but next week someone could invent a new form of analysis that obtains invaluable new data from live virus samples.

It's coming (1)

zeroryoko1974 (2634611) | about 3 months ago | (#47510175)

Captain Trips is only a matter of time. Or zombies.

problem? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47510191)

How problematic is a 60yr old vial of likely dead virus anyway?

According to the agency, the virus was freeze dried and sealed in melted glass and the samples have been in storage since the 1950s.

And they were sealed in melted glass? Come on...
Sounds like a BS "Panic! Your life is in danger!" story to distract us from the worlds real problems.

It's a great weapon. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#47510199)

Honestly, what a fantastic way of completely screwing your enemy. smallpox bombs are a fantastic weapon that will make the people turn on their local government and military as soon as their children start dying.

Biological and Chemical warfare is worse than nuclear warfare, and it's heinous to it's core.

Re:It's a great weapon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510295)

that will make the people turn on their local government and military as soon as their children start dying.

This has been proven wrong time and time again: Bombing a people makes them increase their support for their government and the fight against whomever is bombing them.

Re:It's a great weapon. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47510309)

Let us know when you have a virus that obeys border laws.

Re:It's a great weapon. (1)

Triklyn (2455072) | about 3 months ago | (#47510631)

all, just shoot any potential carriers.

(thwarted by Western scientists) (1)

Threni (635302) | about 3 months ago | (#47510301)

There's another kind of scientist?

Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510315)

The NWO is planning to release a deadly virus that will impact all the world, that is why there has been so much talk recently about various outbreaks.

A virus will likely be released by mr. Obama's people, someplace in the far east, or the Middle East.

Smallpox: The Movie (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 3 months ago | (#47510359)

Sounds like a script from a movie...

Earth 2110 A mutated smallpox pandemic is sweeping the world.
Researchers desperately need an original sample from which to make an vaccine.
Man foolishly destroyed all samples back in the dark years of 2014.
Now a ragtag group of adventurers attempt to find the last remaining sample, the world depends on it!

Re:Smallpox: The Movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510427)

The last report of a live sample is found in Shangri-La and requires the befriending of a skittish unicorn... And no doubt the movie will also have a snotty teenager that learns to appreciate her/his parent throughout the course of the movie.

Re:Smallpox: The Movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510521)

Hey, I'm already writing this script. Stop it.

I'd keep it on file (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 3 months ago | (#47510395)

I'd avoid weaponizing it. I think the science labs that weaponize viruses on the argument that they need to know how to counter weaponized viruses is a little bunk. But I do think the viruses should be kept on file. Keep them in deep dark vaults... but keep them. I don't know if we'll ever need them for some reason but if we do they're there.

As to the worry that scientists might misuse them. I didn't say I'd let the scientists play with them. Just keep them. Seal them away somewhere and require a public hearing to release them to any lab.

Possibly include a 24 hour armed guard to accompany the virus if its released to a lab. The expense of such a guard should discourage casual research.

Too hi (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 3 months ago | (#47510495)

Why Are the World's Scientists Continuing To Take Chances With Smallpox?

In the rare case of necessary future research, it will allow them recognition in their field, leading to alpha status and thus more pussy.

Oh, you meant an analysis lower down within the memetic virtual worldview. Hmmmm. Why does a dog bark at strangers?

theory != practice (1)

dltaylor (7510) | about 3 months ago | (#47510507)

"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."

If you want to know that you can protect against/treat smallpox virus, even if mutated (un)naturally, you have to have some with which to work.

The question is fundamentally nonsense.

If (insert item here) is outlawed . . . (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | about 3 months ago | (#47510569)

. . . . then only outlaws will have (repeat item here).

What about alien attacks? (1)

clovis (4684) | about 3 months ago | (#47510593)

What if it turns out that the disease that killed all the Martians when they attacked back in 1938 was smallpox, and what if that was the ONLY disease they were susceptible to?
Wouldn't we feel like dummies if we destroyed all our
supplies and they attacked again?

FYI, smallpox is not needed to make vaccine (1)

clovis (4684) | about 3 months ago | (#47510691)

For those who don't already know, the smallpox vaccine is the not made from smallpox.
It was originally made from a virus commonly known as "cowpox", although they may have used the horse version for development.

smallpox virus is "variola"
the vaccinating (cowpox) virus is "vaccinia"

The point is, we don't need smallpox to make more vaccine and would not do that anyway.

The CDC has enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone in the USA for smallpox, should it come to that.

Re:FYI, smallpox is not needed to make vaccine (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 3 months ago | (#47510825)

As I mentioned above, almost everyone over 50 in the US was vaccinated in the 60's.

We lined up in school, lol.

I still have my scar. :)

Re:FYI, smallpox is not needed to make vaccine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510921)

As I mentioned above, almost everyone over 50 in the US was vaccinated in the 60's.

We lined up in school, lol.

I still have my scar. :)

Me too.
I have to wonder if the person hoarding the smallpox is thinking "if this present generation gets any more annoying ..."
Hey kids, playing with dubstep is playing with fire.

To Paraphrase Optimus Prime... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47510989)

"What if we destroy the last samples, and you turn out to be wrong that it's extinct?"

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?