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Patrick O'Neil patrick at corona
Wed Mar 29 19:39:31 EST 1995

On 29 Mar 1995, Lisa Ronthal wrote:

> Firstly, is it true 
> that HIV introduced into mice with human immune systems recombines with 
> mouse viruses to become capable of infecting the respiratory tract, and 
> should I be worrying about airborne AIDS in the lab?

This is a new one for me.  I assume you are refering to a transgenic mouse
strain that contains elements of the human immune system.  In any case,
HIV should not really have any more tendency to recombine with any mouse
virus than it does any human virus (and we certainly get infected by many
a respiratory virus).  Not only would the respiratory virus have to take
up residence in the same cells that HIV infects, they would then have to
go through recombination at precisely the right location in an HIV
infected genome - INTO the HIV genome - and in just the right way to allow
further infectivity of the recombinant as well as transfer to the
respiratory system.  None of these are terribly likely at all (to say the
LEAST) so I would not worry all that much about it. 

> Secondly, could one 
> make an antibody-mediated vaccine for Ebola Zaire using Ebola Reston?

Thus far, the problem is getting ANY treatment for these viruses.  As of 
yet, with about 15 years total experience with ebola in general (in the 
form of one strain or another) there is no treatment.  It isn't so simple 
a thing as making antibodies, aka, _Outbreak_, and injecting that into 
the infected.  
  In any case, these filoviruses (the various ebola viruses) are not 
likely as rare in nature as one might tend to believe, nor are they 
restricted to Africa.  Was it in this newsgroup?...I recall reading a 
series of abstracts that someone was good enough to post (somewhere) in 
which antibodies to filoviruses were found in a small but real percentage 
of individuals in Germany, for instance.  The implication being that the 
crossreactivity of their sera to Ebola Zaire (in this particular study) 
means that there are likely related, but non-disease causing filoviruses 
that reside naturally in Germany, at least, but more likely in general 
across the globe.  Their having antibodies to the virus doesn't mean that 
they would be immune to ebola zaire, any more than having HIV antibodies 
gives one immunity to HIV.  You can be sure that before the victims 
of the deadly ebola strains mentioned in _The Hot Zone_ also had 
antibodies to the virus in their sera before they actually died, though 
due to the rapidity of death, not that high a concentration.

> Thirdly, are we all damn sure the demolition of the Reston lab building 
> will not expose/is not exposing or creating any problems?

That lab was thoroughly sterilized by the army decon team using 
formaldahyde and bleach.  That plus the number of years it has been since 
there was any viral shenanigans (don't get a chance to use that word 
much) going on there pretty much ensures that there is no "living" virus 
remaining.  Most viruses have a very short-lived tolerance to the outside 
envirnment lacking proper fluids and hosts.

> Lisa
> who was actually going to work on this stuff for the CDC when she was ten, 
> but then she forgot. Until last week. (The folly is gone, believe me.)
> And who also wonders what else she should read. (high-lay sci-literacy, 
> neurologist's kid)

Try _Evolution of Infectious Disease_ by Paul Ewald and _Emerging 
Viruses_ edited by Preston (this last one is a compilation of scientific 
presentations on various emerging viruses and techniques for early 
detection of unknown viruses from an NIH-sponsored event a few years ago.

Me, I love viruses and think they are absolutely fascinatin' little buggers.


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