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Biowarfare (ebola + smallpox)

T.D. Laing tdlaing at nospam.dres.dnd.ca
Mon Nov 9 17:35:16 EST 1998

In article <OyNdIr#C#GA.263 at upnetnews05>, "Eric Beard"
<ericzbeard at email.msn.com> wrote:

> Concerning the use of ebola as a bio-weapon, the Soviets/Russians were
> rumored to have found a place in the smallpox genome to hide ebola,
> combining the two to form what is refferred to as "ebolapox" or "blackpox",
> with the contagiousness of smallpox and the mortality rate of ebola.
> This information was published in an article called "The Bioweaponeers" and
> its source was Dr. Ken Alibek (formerly Kenatyan Alibekov, a leading Soviet
> bioweapons engineer).  However, the claim has been downplayed by researchers
> at USAMRIID, who say it may be possible but is highly improbable.
> Can anyone provide some solid information on the possibility of actually
> combining the two viruses?

It is possible--modified viruses are used as carriers, or "vectors" for
genetic material from other organisms all the time in molecular biology
(notably bacteriophage and adenovirus, but others as well, including
vaccinia virus, which is related to smallpox virus).  However, researchers
would have to know the entire genetic sequence of the Ebola virus, know
which gene(s) is/are responsible for infecting and attacking the body, and
know how to splice it into the variola genome correctly to maintain the
integrity of the relevant genes from both organisms.  And, they would have
to show that the recombinant organism would act as postulated (contagious
as smallpox, deadly as Ebola) without one inactivating the other, or the
combination having even more nasty attributes.  Theoretically it's
possible (the show Millenium had that premise at the end of last season),
but technically it's quite difficult.

Speaking of smallpox, some infectious disease experts believe smallpox is
poised to make a comeback.  It's been 20 years since the last known
naturally-occurring case and routine immunization against it has
stopped--meaning a whole generation is completely unprotected against it.


T.D. Laing
tdlaing at dres.dnd.ca

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