WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Researchers in the
United States have created a genetically altered mousepox
virus so potent that it kills vaccinated mice, raising new
concerns that biotech advances may be misused by terrorists,
The Washington Post reported Saturday.
The research, led by Mark Buller of Saint Louis
University, involved inserting an extra gene that can suppress
the immune system of the mouse into the mousepox virus, thus
making it easier for the virus to overcome the animal's
This was not the first time such work had been done. In
2001, Australian researchers accidentally achieved a similar
feat, but what Buller has created was more deadly.
In his experiments, all the mice infected with the
engineered mousepox virus died.
US health officials emphasized that the federally
financed workposed no threat to people, saying that although
the mousepox virusis highly contagious and lethal in mice, it
does not cause illnessin humans.
But given the similarities between the mousepox and
smallpox viruses, some scientists argued, the same technique
might be useful for making a beefed-up strain of smallpox
virus that could kill people despite the fact they have been
Acknowledging that someone could, in theory, apply
similar techniques to smallpox, Buller said he had no qualms
about presenting his findings because his team had found two
different ways of countering the enhanced virulence with drugs
and vaccines, and is close to perfecting a third way.
Lawrence Kerr, assistant director for homeland security
in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy,
praised Buller's work.
"This is the type of research we view as critically
important to this nation's biodefense research-and-development
portfolio," Kerr said.
Buller "was developing countermeasures to a model of a
very dangerous pathogen and doing everything in a completely
safe mouse model," he added. Enditem