Smallpox Debate

Subject: Science
Pages: 2
Word count: 306
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I do not support the idea of destroying the last stocks of smallpox virus. The viruses could be used in research studies to understand the properties, which, may be critical in medical research leading to the improvement of human life. Further, no one can predict the future. Another case of smallpox may erupt, and the only way scientists can develop better therapeutic agents in through studies using the preserved virus stocks. There is the fear that the stocks could be used for bioterrorism. However, this reasoning is not rational. Such is because at the moment, the genome of the virus causing smallpox is known, thanks to the advanced sequencing technology. The availability of the information about the genome means that it is possible to create the virus from scratch. Therefore, if bioterrorism prevention is the motivating factor for the destruction of the virus, the threat would still be real as determined persons will be able to create the virus using the genome information (Gallagher). Another reason why destroying the smallpox virus will not alleviate the threat if any is due to the existence of the virus from other sources other than the preserved stocks. First, cadavers of smallpox stored in permafrost are still in place. Since they may contain the infectious form of the virus, their exposure would mean another smallpox epidemic (Joklik 1226). Second, it is unclear whether the samples collected during the eradication of the disease were completely destroyed. Further, there is a chance that monkeypox still affects human in the same fashion as smallpox. This means that irrespective of whether the stocks are destroyed, the threat to human life is still a reality.

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  1. Gallagher, James. “Calling Time On Smallpox.” BBC News, 2011.
  2. Joklik, Wolfgang K., et al. “Why the smallpox virus stocks should not be destroyed.” Science 262.5137 (1993): 1225-1227.
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