The dreaded smallpox virus was eradicated more than 40 years ago, but the threat of its return still looms. In an effort to develop a safer vaccine substitute, Canadian researchers have resurrected a close relative—the extinct horsepox virus—from scratch. Critics say the exercise was pointless, and because the results…
It’s a microscopic case of mistaken identity. A new study published in PLOS Pathogens has found that a 16th-century mummified child may have actually been infected by an ancient strain of hepatitis B, not smallpox as scientists believed for decades. But the finding, if correct, adds even more mystery as to how this…
The history of inoculation may sound a little dry, but it’s really an epic tale of human trafficking, semi-illicit experimentation, and high explosives. It’s a globe-hopping story that stars harem girls, noblewomen, prisoners, princesses, slaves, and even a witch hunter.
In 1721, the first known inoculation in America took place. It was conducted with the enthusiastic support of a man whose previous passion included finding, interrogating, and —if need be — hanging witches. And the backlash from the Salem Witch Trials made it difficult to convince people that inoculation worked.
This print sure looks like petals (it's even called Flowers). But nope: the pattern is liver cells that have been treated with the smallpox vaccine.
Public health policies can be near-miraculous things. They destroyed polio, and gave us all clean drinking water and strong teeth. But there are occasions when public health policies, when combined with human nature, go terribly wrong. Here are nine of the biggest disasters that resulted.
So remember how scientists found unapproved vials of smallpox in a forgotten storage room a few weeks ago? Turns out, they weren't quite finished yet. Now, officials have revealed they've actually uncovered over 300 vials of pathogens including dengue, influenza, and spotted fever. Whoops.
While preparing for move to a new location, researchers at the US National Institutes of Health discovered a cardboard box inside a storage room refrigerator. To their horror, the vials inside were labeled "variola" — the name of the virus that causes smallpox.
Synthetic biology has reignited the debate over destroying remaining smallpox samples in the U.S. and Russia. The ability to construct the virus artificially, some public health experts argue, would eliminate any relevance of laboratory stockpiles.
There's a conference coming up in which a decision is to be made on whether the last known remaining live strains of the smallpox virus should be destroyed. In anticipation of this, an international group of scientists are saying no, arguing that crucial scientific questions about the virus remain unanswered.
In 1971, a woman in Kazakhstan near the Aral sea died of smallpox. How did she get it? It was harvested, weaponized, let out in a controlled test, and got out of control. Here's how the USSR saved the world from the smallpox outbreak it caused.
In an article primarily about the potential folly of holding onto stockpiles of smallpox virus for research purposes—a now-eradicated plague that humans no longer have natural immunity to and that would very likely cause a worldwide catastrophe should it escape from the lab—the BBC includes one awesomely horrible…
Those who have had to argue with anti-vaxxers will know that the argument shifts. If it's not mercury in the vaccines that's causing problems, it's dead fetus parts, and if it's not dead fetus parts, it's unspecified "toxins." But did you know the free-form argument has been going on longer than you imagined? .
Smallpox has been around for a millennium, and claimed hundreds of millions of lives. Each death was tragic, but the last person to die by smallpox left behind one of the most wrenching tragedies of them all.
While smallpox has been eradicated in the wild, samples of the deadly virus still exist in the United States and Russia. Some biodefense experts fear that the continued existence of smallpox leaves the world open to a bioterrorist smallpox attack. To contain a possible smallpox outbreak, the U.S. government has…
In 1979, the World Health Organization successfully eradicated smallpox, removing one of history's greatest killers from the face of the Earth. Now, 33 years later, we just might be on the verge of repeating that feat with polio.
A document has just gone on display at Mount Vernon, Virginia - the museum in the former home of George Washington, first US President. It is an order dated 1777 and signed by Washington himself to send troops that had not been vaccinated for smallpox - or survived it - to Philadelphia to be vaccinated. These troops…
You may not know what rinderpest was. But if you knew that this cattle killer was believed to have been a biblical plague and helped bring down the Roman Empire, you'd cheer that we wiped it off the face of the earth.
Well, yes of course we should destroy all smallpox. But recently the disease was spared the chop, due to US pressure on the World Health Organization. Why would we want keep this killer alive?
A combined smallpox and anthrax vaccine has been developed which is faster and more efficient than either individual version, and could prove to be invaluable during a bioterrorism attack. The researchers took the protective part of an anthrax vaccine, and inserted it into an existing smallpox vaccine along with an…