People could make smallpox from scratch in a lab, scientists warn

Scientists have re-created a relative of the smallpox virus in a lab, from scratch.

This virus, called the horsepox virus, is not harmful to humans, but the new findings suggest that it’s possible for people to make the deadly smallpox virus in a lab. That virus was eradicated from the world in 1980, according to the journal Science .

Re-creating the horsepox virus wasn’t a trivial feat, but it did not require extensive resources, either. The researchers ordered the DNA fragments they used to make the virus from a company that makes DNA pieces for researchers, with made-to-order sequences, and sends them through the mail. In total, the project cost $100,000 and took six months, Science reported.


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The researchers, from the University of Alberta in Canada, hope their effort could one day lead to a better smallpox vaccine. Although most people no longer receive smallpox vaccination , the shot is sometimes given to people who may be at risk for contracting the disease, such as those who work with smallpox or similar viruses in a lab. A small percentage of those vaccinated with the current vaccine may experience serious, life-threatening side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Canadian researchers are working with the pharmaceutical company Tonix to develop a smallpox vaccine. In March, Tonix issued a statement…

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