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Is Smallpox Poised to Make a Comeback?

APR 20, 2017 | KRISTI ROSA
After investigating the leak, four large cracks on the coolant tube had been discovered and were thought to be the cause of the incident. Exposure to high temperatures and a heavy load of water are thought to be the reason for the corrosion. Now, investigators “believe that carbon dioxide used in Kakrapar may have been contaminated, which would have caused the smallpox-like corrosion,” according to the article.

Potential naturally-occurring cases are not the only aspect to fear when it comes to a potential comeback of the disease. At a recent security conference in Munich, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, warned attendees of the growing threat of bioterrorism, stressing that if deadly diseases such as smallpox were to be intentionally spread, the impact “could be worse than that of a nuclear attack,” according to the news outlet RT News.

“We ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril,” Gates said. “The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of terrorists intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus…or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu.”

There has been growing concerns over the looming possibility of bioterrorism attacks, especially since advancements made in molecular biology have made biological weapons more accessible, according to the press release. This is all the more reason to focus energy into being prepared for a potential outbreak, Gates pointed out. He reminded the audience, “Getting ready for a global pandemic is every bit as important as nuclear deterrence and avoiding a climate catastrophe.”

Although vaccination was enough to eradicate the deadly disease in the past, it might not be enough if smallpox makes a surprise comeback. By being aware of potential occurrences and developing prevention strategies, should an outbreak spring up, the world as a whole could be better prepared this time around. To this end, companies such as SIGA Technologies, Inc are focusing their efforts on the development of solutions for potential biothreats. One such drug SIGA is developing is TPOXX (tecovirimat), an antiviral drug for the treatment of orthopoxvirus infections, such as smallpox. The company recently completed enrollment and dosing in the final cohort of a phase 1 trial of an intravenous formulation for the drug.
Feature Picture Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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