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Science & Technology

Scientists have recreated an extinct virus

By T.K. Randall
July 11, 2017 · Comment icon 23 comments

Is experimenting with viruses really a good idea ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 NIAID
Scientists at the University of Alberta have managed to recreate a relative of the deadly smallpox virus.
The idea that mankind could be wiped out by an infectious man-made virus has been explored in movies, books and television shows for years, but just how plausible is such a scenario ?

Sadly, the creation of a potentially lethal pathogen is actually very possible, as evidenced recently in Canada where a research team has managed to bring an extinct virus back from the dead.

A relative of the smallpox virus, which itself killed countless people over the centuries before being finally eradicated in 1980, the newly recreated virus is thankfully harmless, but its mere existence demonstrates that it is genuinely possible to create such things in a laboratory.
The project, which was headed up by Professor David Evans, cost around $100,000 and involved combining pieces of DNA together in the correct sequence.

Not everyone however is convinced that publicizing such research is necessarily a good idea.

"Demonstrating this can be done - and then writing newspaper articles about it and Science magazine articles - will get the attention of people who might want to use it for the wrong reasons and they might have never known about that," said Harvard University's Professor Marc Lipsitch.

Source: Scientific American | Comments (23)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #14 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
That's a whole new level for the definition of "fresh fish"! 
Comment icon #15 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
Yeah, well, if you remove the glamorous layer and stick to reality, probably yes.  More in the vein of The Crazies. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by UFOwatcher 7 years ago
What could possibly go wrong with this?
Comment icon #17 Posted by Orphalesion 7 years ago
I think the headline should include an explanation that this is done to further research in possible treatments for cancer: The way it stands now it's easy to misinterpret it as scientists doing dangerous science for the sake of science, unless one reads the article (which only mentions the reasons for this procedure in an almost off-hand manner). Why does fear of the possible, future misuse of such technology get the headline instead of excitement about it's possible, future benefits? Except, you know, that was a stupid Hollywood movie.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Farmer77 7 years ago
Because from a very basic risk vs reward analysis standpoint it doesn't seem to be worth it 
Comment icon #19 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
I'll go with Jeff Goldblum here: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." Life, if you even consider viruses living, has a way of escaping and surviving. So let's hope this "relative" of Smallpox is not pathogenic to humans. 
Comment icon #20 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
Don't forget Vincent Price's version "The Last Man on Earth"  I think this was also the first version as well. How are they going to know if the virus mutants into something that isn't harmless?  Wait until someone takes a sample out to play with and (enter your tag line here!)
Comment icon #21 Posted by Mr Supertypo 7 years ago
If science is able to bring this back to life it means nature also can. Better be prepared than be caught with your pants down.....just saying.  
Comment icon #22 Posted by oneshot_me 7 years ago
Now how dumb is this?? One of these days they are going to do this with the wrong one and kill us all!!!!
Comment icon #23 Posted by ChaosRose 7 years ago
It sounds dangerous, but if they cure cancer with it, we'll all be cheering. 

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