The smallpox virus, which triggered brutal disease for centuries, was declared eradicated in 1980 after a successful global effort to end its reign of terror. But some scientists fear that it could be revived through what’s known as synthetic biology — the ability to make a virus by putting together by the recipe outlined in its genetic code.
The horsepox virus the Canadian team created is not a threat to human health — or even the health of horses — should it ever escape from a lab. And it’s not the first virus created by putting pieces of DNA together in the right sequence.
Still, the news that a team headed by David Evans, a professor of medical microbiology and immunology, had accomplished this feat — at a relatively low cost of about $100,000 plus labor — was a bit of a wakeup call. The news was first reported Thursday in Science Magazine.