Scientists revive an extinct virus using off-the-shelf DNA

From Engadget - July 9, 2017

As odd as it sounds, reviving the virus would most likely be helpful.The pharmaceutical company Tonix funded the work in hopes of using the relatively benign horsepox as a transport method for a more effective smallpox vaccine.It would also let scientists use other viruses for fighting diseases, such as introducing cancer-fighting systems using the vaccinia virus.If you could generate the necessary viruses on demand, it'd be that much easier to prevent or defeat illnesses that might otherwise have free rein.

The threat, as you might guess, comes from the ease of synthesizing a virus.The horsepox strain in question is not a threat to humans or even horses, but it might only take the right genetic know-how, several months' work and a relatively modest shopping budget (this group spent $100,000) to do the same for a dangerous virus.A hostile nation or extremist group could theoretically engineer a virus and spark an outbreak in a rival country.It's not extremely likely -- they'd need access to both the DNA and corrupt scientists, and would have to take the risk that they might accidentally infect their own people.


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