The World Health Organization is deciding the future of the existing smallpox research samples this month. It has been more than 30 years since the eradication of the disease but samples of it still exist in secure labs in the United States and in Russia. The current debate could lead to the destruction of these last remaining samples.
In the New York Times, two former cabinet members with an eye on America’s security have registered there opinion that the research samples should be retained. They argue that there is more to be gained from the further study of smallpox than eliminating the last known remnants of it.
They suggest that through negligence there may be a few other samples of small pox that could be used by terrorist organizations. Even without a sample, technological advancements could enable someone to recreate the smallpox virus. In these cases, destroying the last samples of smallpox prevents further research that could produce better vaccines we may need.
We will have to stay tuned to hear what the WHO decides to do with the final smallpox samples.