NEW CLOSTRIDIUM BOTULINUM and terrorism

Lesley Robertson l.a.robertson at stm.tudelft.nl
Fri May 10 04:04:33 EST 1996


Mark Pallen <m.pallen at ic.ac.uk> wrote:
>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? :-)
>
 I really don't know how possible this scenario is. However, if it is 
really worrying you, why did you publish the addresses for downloading 
the data?

Lesley Robertson
Kluyver Laboratory, Delft University of Technology, NL





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