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Leading scientist calls for smallpox stock destruction

By Tim Sandle     May 24, 2014 in Science
London - Gareth Williams, a medical doctor, has said that the smallpox virus is no longer necessary for research purposes and could pose a significant threat were it to escape the confines of the lab. He has called for all remaining stocks to be destroyed.
Earlier this month, Digital Journal reported on a debate within the scientific community, and one of interest to all: should the World Health Organization destroy the remaining stocks of the smallpox virus?
The article was framed by a group of scientists who argued no, stocks of the virus should be kept. This campaign is led by Inger Damon of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. Smallpox localized in small blood vessels of the skin and in the mouth and throat. In the skin it resulted in a characteristic "pox" rash and, later, raised fluid-filled blisters. The WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979.
In response, the yes ("destroy smallpox stocks") campaign has picked up pace. Gareth Williams has written in the New Scientist: "The intact virus is pretty redundant as a research tool: the genomes of many strains have been thoroughly sequenced and key proteins required by the functioning virus can be made in the lab. Over the last 30 years, the stocks of virus have contributed little to scientific understanding."
Edwards also worries about the use of the virus in bio-terrorism: "The Variola virus is a genie which must not be allowed to escape from its bottle into the world again...that risk will never be zero while stocks remain. Destruction removes that risk and might allow the WHO to focus on what we will really need if smallpox ever comes back."
Last time we reported on this subject, it stimulate an interesting debate. Has Edwards' comment changed your mind? Please use the comments section below.
More about Smallpox, Virus, Stocks, World health organization
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