An engineered mouse virus is one step away from the ultimate bioweapon. A virus that kills every one of its victims, by wiping out part of their immune system, is been researched, according to some intelligent sources, at Cuba's CIGB. The virus, a modified mousepox, does not affect humans, but it is closely related to smallpox, raising fears that the technology could be used in biowarfare. The virus was accidentally found by scientists in Australia.

The virus was produced accidentally by merely trying to make a mouse contraceptive vaccine for pest control. But it is a good way to show how to alter smallpox to make it more virulent. A gene that creates large amounts of interleukin 4, IL-4 was inserted into a mousepox. Mousepox normally causes only mild symptoms in the type of mice used in the study. But with IL-4 gene added it wiped out all the animals in nine days. If IL-4 is put into human smallpox, it would increase the lethality quite dramatically. The smallpox virus was given to Cuba by the former USSR.

To make matters worse, the engineered virus, found in labs in Australia and Oregon, also appears unnaturally resistant to attempts to vaccinate the mice. This fact highlights the fact that any vaccine could be overcome by one or another genetically engineered virus or bacterium.

The CIGB in Cuba has acquired the capacity also to work with nanotechnology. This is the new frontier in biotechnology. Agreements have been made with scientific institutes in India, which has achieved tremendous advances in nanotechnology.

Many cells, where numerous life activities and the interactions of protein surfaces take place, are measured in nanometers. Engineers at the CIGB, again according to some intelligent sources, are working on extremely small machines and tools that can enter the human body. This is the millionth-of-a-millimeter world of biotechnology today.

By using a person's saliva, body fluids, or blood, nano biosensors can be created to reliably work with pathogens such as viruses. In tissue engineering, a scaffold, measuring only 50 nanometers in diameter, can be built using nanofibers. These are the secrets of life and they are taking place at the nanoscale.

Drug and virus development costs can be reduced by using nanochips to test various medications or a combination of chemicals and vaccines. The tests would use nanoprobes so thin and sharp they could enter the cell and leave a few molecules of a virus behind and then exit. This way, genetically, they could be altered.

Nanotechnology, the new frontier in biotechnology, have many ethical issues surrounding the medical advances that it will spur. Is it possible that research into new vaccines against cancer and other diseases could inadvertently, or on purpose, create lethal human viruses? Defense experts are worried about preserving the freedom to publish medical findings while trying to stop the information falling into the wrong hands. There is no solution on how to deal with this.

Manuel Cereijo
August 2001

Este y otros excelentes artículos del mismo autor MANUEL CEREIJO aparecen en la REVISTA GUARACABUYA con dirección electrónica de:

Éste y otros excelentes artículos del mismo AUTOR aparecen en la REVISTA GUARACABUYA con dirección electrónica de: