Smallpox and other diseases-why do we keep them?

Warning-VERY scary site!!! Do NOT click on Pathology if you have a weak stomach-the one picture will give me nightmares for a weak.
I’m freaking out, since I heard about this. I KNOW I’m being paranoid. But with all this talk, I’m scared, and want to know WHY does the government keep and cultivate this stuff? Is it for research? Or something even worse-like biological warfare?

Why would anyone want to release this stuff? Why do we keep it?

For the same reason we keep nuclear bombs.

I don’t think we should use them, but many do. Or that we should “have them” as some kind of screwed-up deterrant.

Why would the US government grow this shit? (I didn’t go through your link)

It probably is two heads of the same evil coin. You need the virus in order to study/combat it.

I wouldn’t put it past the US to have deliverable smallpox as a weapon. That said, I think it unlikely.

I would imagine the US maintains smallpox in order to study and combat it as a bioweapon. The last real world smallpox outbreak was something like 20+ yrs ago.

The USSR was the other country known to have smallpox in their labs. The USSR no longer exists and chances are that people in that cash-strapped country sold stocks of the virus to fucks like Saddam Hussein for a shit load of money.

If you think anthrax and smallpox are bad, wait until airborne Ebola shows up.

WHY does the government keep and cultivate this stuff?

  1. Because the Russians did.

  2. It could/does have research uses. Both militarily and as a means of researching diseases.

Is it for research? Or something even worse-like biological warfare?

  1. Both

Why would anyone want to release this stuff?

  1. It’s a effective means of terror/disrupting a society/making your enemies numbers fewer.

Why do we keep it?

  1. Prior to 9/11, there had been debate/discussion between the Russians and the U.S. about destroying all remaining smallpox samples. Supposedly, and most likely, the Russians and the U.S. were the only entities who had smallpox virus samples.

The reasons given for not destroying the smallpox samples were that 1. the samples can be invaluable for research. As a society, we talk about not destroying the rain forests because there could be one plant in the rain forests that cures cancer. From a research/medical viewpoint, the study of smallpox could provide clues about the AIDS virus, cancer, etc.

  1. If the U.S. and Russians agreed to destroy their stashes of the smallpox virus, could we trust the Russians to destroy 100% of it? Could they trust us? The history of our two nations would suggest “NO”, on both sides. This is the strongest reason why it wasn’t destroyed.

I do think you are being a bit paranoid. But after 9/11, I’m reluctant to call anyone paranoid.
But sleep well, at this time it’s a small threat.


My brother did Smallpox research and, while I cannot speak for him, I can certainly give you a good reason for it. The basic purpose of it is that we can study it and find out it’s strengths and weaknesses. That way we can eliminate any similar disease that may come along in the future. If we just killed it, we wouldn’t know anything at all about it and all we could do is hope that nothing else comes along because we certainly wouldn’t be prepared for it. As it is, a similar and very deadly disease could start and be erradicated before you or I could ever even know about it. That’s the purpose for keeping it, but the point is that it should be kept under very tight security.

I am no expert, but I’m not convinced we need the real thing in order to do such research. I wonder if the US saved their vials just because they were afraid that the USSR would save theirs. Anyway, Cecil just wrote a column on Smallpox and bioterrorism that will be out in a couple of weeks.

Well, could we need it to make more vaccine if we run out? It seems that we need to have it in case these maniac “evil-doers” have it.

I would think it highly unlikely though that they do have it. But I don’t want to find out for sure.

An elaboration on Dale The Bold’s post:
Smallpox is thought to have been a mutation of one of several similar virii known to exist amongst animal populations (cowpox, monkeypox, and probably others). If it mutated once, it could do so again, and we ought to be ready for it.

Why do we keep smallpox (and Ebola, and Lassa, and hantavirus and plague, and all the others) around?
For researching the nature of the beast so that we can understand better how they work; and also in case of an outbreak, so that we have cultures to comapare them to for positive ID. The main reason that the WHO, CDC, et. al, have resisted destroying the smallpox samples so far is that further outbreaks are possible, and you need samples of the virus to make the vaccine. Vaccine generally doesn’t keep all that well over time.

To put it in perspective, destroying smallpox so relatively soon after it’s been “eradicated” (and from an epidemiological perspective, as long as there’s life, there’s a chance of an outbreak from somewhere) is like Microsoft announcing that they’ve just created this cool non-cash form of money and that they’ll be rolling it out worldwide. You wouldn’t throw away all of your paper money, gold, securities, so on, would you?

Keeping virus cultures is a hedge against future outbreaks, which may be now very possible.

Hmmm…you’re right, that does make sense.

But I suppose it just frightens me-has the US ever planned biological warfare?

I can’t say it makes sense to me.

If we want fodder for vaccines, we can make attenuated virus.

We can keep the genome as DNA without keeping the virus itself.

IF a mutation springs up, we’ll have to deal with it as itself. It will be closely related to cowpox, anyway - we have cowpox, and it’s a helluva lot less deadly. We’ve gotten pretty good at isolating viruses - prions still throw us, but if X-pox shows up in a population, we can deal with it just as well without smallpox in a vault in DC.

MHO, we’re keeping it as a ‘mutually assured infection’ ploy.

from a microbiologist

The U.S. officially got out of the germ warfare biz back in 1969 I believe. And the U.S. is a signatory to a treaty banning the use of biological and chemical weapons.