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Virus injection into groundwater

Mary Firestone jsi at igc.apc.org
Fri Oct 20 14:47:11 EST 1995

We have had an inquiry from a concerned citizen in Montana about a
study proposed for his area.  A group of scientists (a virologist,
a bacteriologist, and a hydrogeologist) are proposing to inject
viruses into an aquifer in order to study their dispersal.  The
original plan was to study viruses already present in the
groundwater, but they couldn't detect what was already there so
they now plan to add some of their own, including attenuated
poliovirus and a virus which infects the bacterium E. coli.


For several decades, a vaccine has been available for polio.  The
first was the injected Salk vaccine -- a killed poliovirus.  The
second was the Sabin (oral) vaccine -- a live attenuated
poliovirus.  The attenuated virus is not harmless to all subjects:
persons who are immunodeficient congenitally, through chemotherapy
or transplant surgery, or through HIV/AIDS should not be exposed
to this virus.  A book on the treatment of AIDS patients cautions
against use of the attenuated virus by anyone in the patient's

People who receive this attenuated virus shed it in fecal matter.
Indeed it was for this reason that the persons conducting this
study chose a site which would receive the virus coming from the
leach field at a school -- within 500 feet of private wells.  The
local health department only required that residents using those
wells be notified.

Does anyone out there have any insights or suggestions?

Mary Firestone

JSI Center for Environmental Health Studies

210 Lincoln Street

Boston, MA  02111

Voice: (617) 482-9485

FAX:   (617) 482-0617

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