Should smallpox be destroyed in 1999 as planned?

Ian A. York iayork at panix.com
Tue Mar 12 08:54:00 EST 1996


In article <4i3lql$bfg at otis.netspace.net.au>,
Ruth Goldstone <ruth at netspace.net.au> wrote:

>our largely unvaccinated population and because I do not believe that
>live virus is useful in research (ie. The entire genome has been mapped
>and non-contagious cloned DNA fragments are being preserved) Can anyone
>offer a valid reason for actually preserving the smallpox virus? 

Well, I agree that the stocks should be destroyed, but I also think your
argument is weak, if you're assuming that a DNA sequence and
non-infectious fragments will give full information as to viral
pathogenesis; they do not (necessarily) give the information that a
full-length viral infection would.  For example, one could easily imagine
scenarios in which the products of two physically-separated genes interact
to cause some important event.  The other important information that's 
not present in a sequence or fragments is the precise level of 
expression, which may also be important.

My feeling is that there is still important information to be gained from 
the intact, infectious virus; but, to me, this information is not enough 
to outweigh the advantages of destroying the stocks.  But to simply 
dismiss the advantages, and to say that "the live virus is not useful in 
research," is to take an overly reductionist view.

Ian




-- 
      Ian York   (iayork at panix.com)  <http://www.panix.com/~iayork/>
      "-but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a
       very respectable Man." -Jane Austen, The History of England



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