US develops lethal new viruses
Written by Debora MacKenzie, Geneva
New Scientist issue: 1 November 2003
SCIENTIST funded by the US government has deliberately
created an extremely deadly form of mousepox, a relative of the smallpox
virus, through genetic engineering. The new virus kills all mice even if
they have been given antiviral drugs as well as a vaccine that would
normally protect them. The work has not stopped there. The cowpox virus,
which infects a range of animals including humans, has been genetically
altered in a similar way. The new virus, which is about to be tested on
animals, should be lethal only to mice, Mark Buller of the University of St
Louis told New Scientist. He says his work is necessary to explore what
bioterrorists might do.
But the research brings closer the prospect of pox viruses that cause only
mild infections in humans being turned into diseases lethal even to people
who have been vaccinated. And vaccines are currently our main defence
against smallpox and its relatives, such as the monkeypox that reached the
US this year. Some researchers think the latest research is risky and
unnecessary. "I have great concern about doing this in a pox virus that can
cross species," said Ian Ramshaw of the Australian National University in
Canberra on being told of Buller's work.
Ramshaw was a member of the team that accidentally discovered how to make
mousepox more deadly (New Scientist, 13 January 2001, p 4). But the modified
mousepox his team created was not as deadly as Buller's.
Since then, Ramshaw told New Scientist, his team has also created more
deadly forms of mousepox, and has used the same method to engineer a more
deadly rabbitpox virus. But this research revealed that the modified pox
viruses are not contagious, he says. That is good news in the sense that
these viruses could not cause ecological havoc by wiping out mouse or rabbit
populations around the world if they escaped from a lab.
However, this discovery also means some bioterrorists might be more tempted
to use the same trick to modify a pox virus that infects humans. Such a
disease, like anthrax, would infect only those directly exposed to it. It
would not spread around the world and rebound on the attackers. But there is
no guarantee that other pox viruses modified in a similar way would also be
non-contagious. Ramshaw's team made its initial discovery while developing
contraceptive vaccines for sterilising mice and rabbits without killing
them. The researchers modified the mousepox virus by adding a gene for a
natural immunosuppressant called IL-4, expecting this would boost antibody
production. Instead, the modified mousepox virus was far more lethal,
killing 60 per cent of vaccinated mice. The addition of IL-4 seems to switch
off a key part of the immune system called the cell-mediated response.
Now Buller has engineered a mousepox strain that kills 100 per cent of
vaccinated mice, even when they were also treated with the antiviral drug
cidofovir. A monoclonal antibody that mops up IL-4 did save some, however.
His team "optimised" the virus by placing the IL-4 gene in a different part
of the viral genome and adding a promoter sequence to maximise production of
the IL-4 protein, he told a biosecurity conference in Geneva last week.
Buller has also constructed a cowpox virus containing the mouse IL-4 gene,
which is about to be tested on mice at the US Army Medical Research
Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Cowpox infects
people, but Buller says the IL-4 protein is species-specific and would not
affect the human immune system. The experiments are being done at the
second-highest level of biological containment.
Ramshaw says there is no reason to do the cowpox experiments, as his group's
work on rabbits has already shown the method works for other pox viruses.
While viruses containing mouse IL-4 should not be lethal to humans,
recombinant viruses can have unexpected effects, he says. "You'd hope the
combination remains mouse-specific."
Why his group's engineered viruses are not contagious is a mystery, he says.
It is not, for instance, because the host dies faster than usual, taking the
virus with it. But his findings could explain why pox viruses containing
IL-4 have never evolved naturally, even though the viruses frequently pick
up genes that affect their host's immunity.
Despite the concerns, work on lethal new pox viruses seems likely to
continue in the US. When members of the audience in Geneva questioned the
need for such experiments, an American voice in the back boomed out:
"Nine-eleven". There were murmurs of agreement.
Check out this site for other important revelations
Copyright of Reed Business Information Limited
| The U.S.
Government a.k.a. the Illuminati |
Societies | The
New World Order |
Banking & Paper
Media Control |
Government & Mind Control |
| Drugs |
Nazism Today & In
The Past |
The War on Terrorism |
Religious Wars |
Wars Towards a
New World Order |
U.S. Patents to
Control Us |
| Health |
Free | Links to
Other Websites |
E-Mail Us ||
Saturday January 10, 2004 06:43:28 PM -0800