Designer Diseases?

Bill_A_Nussbaumer at bd.com Bill_A_Nussbaumer at bd.com
Tue Aug 7 15:53:58 EST 2001

I assume these questions are asked purely out of curiosity rather than
sinister motives.

I think an important point is that while the technology exists to
manipulate DNA sequences in bacteria and virus' (and even higher organisms
such as mice), the knowledge of human and pathogen biology necessary to
make such a targeted mutation (or set of mutations) is not that complete.
i.e. We have the technology to change the DNA without necessarily a full
understanding of the effects of doing so. (See trial and error as stated by

It also wouldn't be very long before the pathogen (especially a virus)
would most likely mutate itself in the wild to take advantage of all those
brown and green eyed hosts out there.  Said Mad Scientist could well risk
becoming a victim of a mutated form of his/her own invention.

Regarding who could do it.  It's not so overwhelming that you need the
backing of a rouge nation, but it's not like a 13 year old kid modifying a
computer virus in his mom's basement either.  It takes substantial
knowledge and resources to do this type of work.


Sent by:  owner-microbio at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk

To:   microbio at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk
Subject:  Re: Designer Diseases?

> If the state of the art isn't that far advanced, how soon will it be?
> If it can be done now, what kind of resources does it take: those of a
> rogue state? a terrorist group? a single mad scientist?

Dear Wordly,
            this kind of science takes a lot of trial and error which is
why I work with bacteria - I can make lots of mistakes with them and
nobody cares.  Also, they have a 20 minute life cycle so I can rapidly
make some more.  To make a specific disease for a human would take a lot
of experimenting and trial and error - I am sure _somebody_ would notice
the mistakes (dead bodies) piling up before a any mad scientist could
actually get a working model ready.  However, if you give me enough
money I will of course try for you.  Regards, Mike.


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