NEW CLOSTRIDIUM BOTULINUM and terrorism

Mark Pallen m.pallen at ic.ac.uk
Thu May 9 09:27:42 EST 1996


OK, so, in this case, we are not seeing a terrorist fishing for info!;-) 

But a thought has been bouncing around my head for some time now...

It's this:

The entire Marburg virus genome sequence  is already available via 
GenBank:(http://www3.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/htbin-post/Entrez/query?uid=960
28047&form=6&db=m&Dopt=r and 
http://www3.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov:80/htbin-post/Entrez/query?uid=450908&form=
6&db=n&Dopt=g)
and smallpox is planned to be. If one were to synthesise the Marburg 
genome as a set of overlapping oligos (say 1000 50-mers), assemble them 
by PCR and then put a powerful promoter in front that would produce an 
RNA transcript once inside a mammalian cell, would one be able to create 
infectious material? I know that the minus strand of filoviruses is not 
infectious, but what if one instead drove production of the plus strand?

Is this scenario plausible? If it is at all plausible (leaving aside the 
costs--50K dollars say for the oligos), then isn't it irresponsible 
having this stuff in the databases  (the same argument applies to 
bacterial toxin sequences)? Are attempts to download the Marburg 
sequence monitored? If not, why not?

And how come the US government worries so much about exporting PGP etc. 
when anyone can download the sequences of Marburg, botulin toxin 
etc.from a US server?! Shouldn't that count as a munitions export? :-)



Mark
********************************************************
Dr Mark Pallen, Senior Lecturer in Medical Microbiology,
St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, London, EC1A 7BE
currently on a Research Leave Fellowship at Imperial College 
Rm 502, Dept of Biochem, Imperial College, London, SW7 2AY
email:m.pallen at ic.ac.uk  WWW: http://www.qmw.ac.uk/~rhbm001/mpallen.html
phone: day ++44(0)1715945254, eves ++44(0)1815057937, FAX 
++44(0)1715945255
Author, Microbial Underground: http://www.qmw.ac.uk/~rhbm001
********************************************************
"My country is the world and my religion is to do good..." 
Thomas Paine
********************************************************





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