Friday, October 21, 2005

I must have missed something.

From an op/ed in the NYT:
... the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database.

This is extremely foolish. The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous.

First, it would be easier to create and release this highly destructive virus from the genetic data than it would be to build and detonate an atomic bomb given only its design, as you don't need rare raw materials like plutonium or enriched uranium. Synthesizing the virus from scratch would be difficult, but far from impossible. An easier approach would be to modify a conventional flu virus with the eight unique and now published genes of the 1918 killer virus.
I find that hard to believe. Don't you need some specialized equipment to manipulate viruses? Like the REALLY tiny tweezers? Last I checked, there are plans on the internet for building a nuke, and besides the plutonium, you need little more than a garbage can and some dynamite.

Whatever. I have to think that if some enemy of healthfulness has the skill and equipment to deploy a virus to the population, they'll have the recipe for whatever virus they want.

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