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Biotech Science

'Safe Ebola' Created for Research 198

Posted by Zonk
from the makes-me-so-happy-to-be-living-in-the-same-city dept.
Nephrite writes "By removing a gene from the virus Ebola, UW-Madison scientists have managed to stop the deadly pathogen from replicating. This first step may be a start down the path to a vaccine or drug screening. 'The scientists still want the virus to replicate in order to study it, so they developed monkey kidney cells which contained the protein needed. Because the cell was providing the protein, and not the virus itself, it could only replicate within those cells, and even if transferred into a human, would be harmless.'"
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'Safe Ebola' Created for Research

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  • This is outbreak waiting to happen! Find me patient zero!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Do not worry, George W. Bush has announced a plan to invade Wisconsin claiming that they are developing weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons against his kidney.

      The university tried to open a line of communication with the president to reason with him but was met with difficulty when he retired to the war room to pout and 'play with his toys.'
  • by Laughing Pigeon (1166013) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:04AM (#22137720)
    Grisoft Antivirus has detected a dangerous virus and has blocked access to TFA.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      'Safe Ebola' created for research
      Scientists have made the lethal virus Ebola harmless in the lab, potentially aiding research into a vaccine or cure.

      Taking a single gene from the virus stops it replicating, US scientists wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

      Ebola, currently handled in highly secure labs, kills up to 80% of those it infects.

      However, one expert said the new method may not yet be a fail-safe way of dealing with the virus.

      We wanted to
  • Hmmm.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlueStrat (756137) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:07AM (#22137752)
    Does anyone else hear that quote from that movie Jurassic Park "Life always finds a way" when they see this? I mean, what could possibly go wrong, huh? Other than a little hemorrhagic(sp?) fever?

    Cheers!

    Strat
    • Before you panic (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:18AM (#22137878)
      Before everyone panics, just think for a second. Ebola is NOT AIRBORNE. It is transmitted by direct contact and bodily fluids. It's classified as BSL4 because it's so deadly once you actually get it, not due to its ease of transmission.

      Currently, only a few groups have access to BSL4 laboratories, and this has been severely hampering Ebola research. If by taking out the VP30 gene they have reduced the pathogenicity of the virus enough to get the authorities to apply the more appropriate BSL3 tag to the mutant strain, they've succeeded in making an important stride towards expanding the field, while introducing a very minimal risk of an outbreak.

      I don't think anyone is talking about drinking the recombinant virus, but merely making it BSL3 instead of BSL4... or even just reducing the risk of working with Ebola under BSL4 conditions.
      • From Slashdot's favorite reference authority

        Although airborne transmission between monkeys has been demonstrated by an accidental outbreak in a laboratory located in Virginia, USA, there is very limited evidence for human-to-human airborne transmission in any reported epidemics. Nurse Mayinga might represent the only possible case. The means by which she contracted the virus remains uncertain.

        No citations, but it's about what I remember from reading The Hot Zone.

      • by monoqlith (610041) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:33AM (#22138100)
        You would be right, and +1 Informative, if only from TFA:

        ""We wanted to make biologically contained Ebola virus so that we can drink it," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka.

        And if you're going to point out that I simply added the part in bold myself, then I can onlly say in my defense that it is probably what Yoshihiro Kawoaka is thinking anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Somegeek (624100)
          Drink Ebola Cola! It's Horrifically Delicious! Viral marketing campaign coming soon...
      • Re:Before you panic (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BigGar' (411008) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:54AM (#22138398) Homepage
        Not that entirely correct.
        The strain Ebola-Reston is airborne, fortunately, it appears, the air-borne mutation also makes it non-lethal to humans.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_Reston/ [wikipedia.org]
      • by sorak (246725)

        Before everyone panics, just think for a second. Ebola is NOT AIRBORNE. It is transmitted by direct contact and bodily fluids.

        So we're safe as long as we don't touch or have sex with any UW-Madison scientists, or their monkeys.

      • by Upaut (670171)
        Actually Ebola, like all viruses, mutate.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_Reston [wikipedia.org]

        You might of forgotten this one, it was in the news a long time ago, but it shows that the virus can become airborne. And this is why it is so important that this strain be developed: We need to make a vaccine for this asap.

        And on another point: frankly I am a little pissed that once a virus is considered "beaten", we stop mass vaccinations for it, allowing it the chance of it to slowly spread back. If I didn't have cow
      • Ebola is NOT AIRBORNE. It is transmitted by direct contact and bodily fluids.

        Unfortunately there is a variety of hemorrhagic fever that IS easily transmitted, probably airborne. It arrived in the east coast US with a shipment of primates and wiped them out in a lab. (Fortunately it was not transmissible to humans or we would have had quite the epidemic on our hands.)

        Though ebola is not airborne (so far) it is very easily transmitted by contact - especially since it causes major fluid leakage.

        If by taking
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by donscarletti (569232)
      That's what I thought to begin with, but then again, it's not as if kids will be snorting lines of this stuff for fun, it will be used in sealed laboritories with extreme care. If ebola must be studied in more flexible environments than BSL4 for it to be understood as the article claims, then a mutant virus that probably is harmless is probably a better choice to a natural virus that brings hemorrhagic fever to all it infects. Sure, don't give it to fresher biology classes, don't play with it without seriou
    • by Goaway (82658)
      Consider how reactionary and outright Luddite Slashdot is, this is pretty much the reaction I'd expect here.
    • by Doomstalk (629173)
      Viruses are NOT alive. They're just bits of DNA\RNA in a protein envelope.
  • ...air pressure in the room is less than the pressure outside, so any leak would mean air flowing inwards rather than outwards. ...

    OK, I'm not an expert in biosecurity, but wouldn't the reduced air pressure in the room be accomplished by pumping air out of the room?

    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:14AM (#22137826)

      OK, I'm not an expert in biosecurity, but wouldn't the reduced air pressure in the room be accomplished by pumping air out of the room?
      Through a controlled path that includes multiple
      The idea is that when you take air out of the room, you control the path of the outflow, and thus you can filter the particulates, including viruses. Otherwise, when you open the door, they just tend to diffuse out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      ...air pressure in the room is less than the pressure outside, so any leak would mean air flowing inwards rather than outwards. ...

      OK, I'm not an expert in biosecurity, but wouldn't the reduced air pressure in the room be accomplished by pumping air out of the room?

      Off course the experts have thought of that and put the exhaust of the pumps right next to the leaks so the air will get sucked in again immediately.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by adisakp (705706)
      OK, I'm not an expert in biosecurity, but wouldn't the reduced air pressure in the room be accomplished by pumping air out of the room?

      If the secure research facility is air-tight, pumping a little bit of air out would produce a vacuum / differential pressure (compared to the positive pressure suit systems) that would could be maintained without pumping out any more air.

      Furthermore, the little bit of air that does get pumped out can be processed to eliminate or kill viruses -- it can be filtered, passe
  • cancer and vaccines (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:12AM (#22137794) Journal

    The scientists still want the virus to replicate in order to study it, so they developed monkey kidney cells which contained the protein needed. Because the cell was providing the protein, and not the virus itself, it could only replicate within those cells, and even if transferred into a human, would be harmless.'"
    apparently this is also an area of cancer research as well. cripple a virus so that it can only live in cancer cells and let it destroy the party. vaccines are created from deactivated viruses, breeding the viruses in an environment where their ability to infect human cells is no longer an advantage eventually leads to a weakened form of the virus, specifically crippling viruses OTOH may be far more useful in this regard. it's also a way to make sure the virus stays confined, if it needs a certain component only found in a lab setting [GMed cells with a particular enzyme for example] it would be that much harder to do any real damage even if it did escape.
    • by techpawn (969834)
      Man, I just keep thinking of MI:2 where they make a super virus because they where trying to make a super vaccine.

      We keep washing 99.9999% of germs and bacteria off ourselves and we seem to be getting sicker and the germs seems to be getting tougher (MRSA [wikipedia.org]). When I was a kid was played in dirt then came in and grabbed a sammich and went out to play more... Damn life was sweet... Most of us are fine! It's not until we get into the "bacterial hand lotion" kicks that I see my peers dropping like flies...
      • Most of us are fine! It's not until we get into the "bacterial hand lotion" kicks that I see my peers dropping like flies...

        sigh.. the most common active compound in antibacterial soaps, lotions etc. is Triclosan. It is rather disturbing to see it used as widely as it is because of the risk of selecting for triclosan resistance. it's a never ending arms race, we make new antibiotics, they develop a way to inactivate or efficiently pump the drug out of their cells. the only thing that has a real chance a

      • by N3WBI3 (595976)
        Ummmm

        "Man, I just keep thinking of MI:2 where they make a super virus because they where trying to make a super vaccine."

        No they were making a super virus as a weapon they just developed the vaccine first..

        "The plot (or more accurately, the excuse for the movie) revolves around a manmade biological weapon called "Chimera" that's been seized by rogue agent Sean Ambrose (a lightweight Dougray Scott). Now Ambrose and his band of generic thugs need to get their hands on the bug's antidote in order to execute th
      • by darthflo (1095225)
        Unfortunately for them, they're actually using "antibacterial hand lotion". Were they to use bacterial hand lotion, their immune system would be trained with every application, resulting in superhumanly immune hands.
      • And for the vast majority of human MRSA isn't any different from "regular" Staphylococcus aureus, which we all probably carry. Now if your imuno-compromised and the staph population reach pathological levels, that when MSRA is a problem, but I do think that constant exposure to some "germs" helps keep the immune system tuned so the bad stuff gets taken care a bit quicker.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Unfortunately curing cancer in this way causes people to become zombies (see I am Legend)
  • How much do we know about virii to safely declare legally that this ebola virus would not leap from monkeys to humans.
    Don't the scientists know that the original virus leapt from monkeys to humans just like HIV.
    Hell we can't even classify virus as a living or non-living thing.

    And now our irrational scientists like John Hammond think they can tinker...

    Although on one hand i support them, ebola is tooo dangerous to escape from the funny farm. if it had been smallpox or something it would be understandable.

    Thi
    • Re:Genetics.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:27AM (#22138000)
      I hope that this was a sarcastic post, given the amount of ignorance it contained.

      We would like to study ebola, so that we can save your sorry ass if you get it. To do that, we've modified it to weaken it, so we don't kill ourselves studying it. We're not really going to put it in your food and air supply!

      As far as why Bush hates funding genetic engineering as a whole you're correct. Your post illustrates PRECISELY why people hate funding it - they are ignorant, scared sheet, and content remaining such.
      • That WAS a funny post. Exactly how a conservative like McCain or Bush would argue...
      • by darthflo (1095225)
        The most direct way to extinct any given virus still is to immediately let it infect any lifeform it can. Immune lifeforms will live on while the (now hostless) virus won't.
        Also, this would fix the overpopulation troubles. Unfortunately most humans don't quite want to risk their lives to kill a single boring virus.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NIckGorton (974753)

      Although on one hand i support them, ebola is tooo dangerous to escape from the funny farm. if it had been smallpox or something it would be understandable.

      Smallpox is far more dangerous and has killed more than a thousand times as many people as Ebola. Ebola is actually relatively easy to contain, though quite deadly. Smallpox is deadly and far more easily spread. And most people under 40 in the developed world are not vaccinated against smallpox. So a smallpox release has a far greater potential danger.

      How much do we know about virii to safely declare legally that this ebola virus would not leap from monkeys to humans.

      First, the standard English plural of virus is viruses. Second, I don't think the courts have anything to do with whether or not a crippled virus is safe an

  • The Sky is falling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:17AM (#22137874) Homepage
    Why is it on Slashdot that any thing that restricts any sort of digital rights is a massively bad thing and any research that breaks those elements (even if they are used for nefarious purposes) are good, physics and astronomy research is also always "good", meanwhile massive advances in bio-tech are always "think of the children" topics.

    Sure Ebola is dangerous, but labs are working around the world with massively dangerous pathogens. Britain's numpties in the bio-farming area managed to release Foot and Mouth into the wild (genius) so of course there is a risk. The question is whether it is safe and what can be achieved by doing this, not simply thinking about the Horror flick that played a ridiculous story line out. Bio-shock story lines are just as realistic as techno-shock ones, i.e. about as realistic as a George Bush explanation on Iraqi WMD.

    Bio-science is one of the most real frontiers in science today and its simply stunning what is being done. Sure there need to be controls, but educated people need to stop behaving like Fox News Anchors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by malkavian (9512)
      Bad, no.. Interesting.. Yes..
      Worrisome, most certainly.
      Out of all the techs we've yet produced as a race, all of them (with the possible exception of the nascent self-replicating nanotechnology field) have been firmly controlled by humanity.
      Biotech on the other hand, we create something, and when it leaves (and sometimes before it leaves) the 'home', it gets all grown up, with the possibility of getting a serious attitude of it's own and some seriously big boots to come back kicking with.
      With all our machin
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        Biotech on the other hand, we create something, and when it leaves (and sometimes before it leaves) the 'home', it gets all grown up, with the possibility of getting a serious attitude of it's own and some seriously big boots to come back kicking with.

        You're right. If those evil scientists keep tinkering around with Ebola like this, it might end up turning into something really bad.

        All sarcasm aside, creating less-pathogenic versions of deadly viruses is one of the best techniques available to provide h

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GauteL (29207)
      "Why is it on Slashdot that any thing that restricts any sort of digital rights is a massively bad thing and any research that breaks those elements (even if they are used for nefarious purposes) are good, physics and astronomy research is also always "good", meanwhile massive advances in bio-tech are always "think of the children" topics."

      That is a bit simplistic. The story summary is pretty neutral, and the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag is a humorous tag used for many stories. Actually, reading the list [slashdot.org]
    • It's simple: We feel what we don't understand or know. Slashdot is a tech nerd crowd. We don't feel technology but there're few doctors or medical researchers among us so hence the fear. Not saying it's justified but simply that we're all human after all. We're only smarter than the masses in one area, not all areas as we like to think.
  • Um.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by cbart387 (1192883)
    Has anyone ever read Demon in the Freezer (about smallpox) or The Hot Zone (about Ebola)? (both of which are very good books) All I know is that any biological agent like Ebola or smallpox scares the hell out of me. I think it was in The Hot Zone (could be another book, I was reading all I could find about Ebola for a while) where there WAS an Ebola outbreak in the US that WAS airborne. Monkeys were dying in a lab and the best explanation for this was that the strain (Reston) was airborne. Luckily this
    • by Blimey85 (609949)
      There is also a book called Virus Hunters of the CDC that shared some of the same info as The Hot Zone. One of those two does reference the outbreak in Reston Virginia.

      Demon in the Freezer was great and scared the bejesus out of me. I read that one and one other on Smallpox having thought Ebola was the worst there was. Now I know that Smallpox is far far far worse than Ebola ever hopes to be.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      The strain is known to have infected several humans and not caused illness.

      It's extremely dangerous NOT to be playing with ebola. If the virus mutates a little so that it's a bit less deadly, or kills more slowly, then it will be far more of a threat than it is now. That's why we research it now.
  • by ifknot (811127) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:26AM (#22137988) Homepage
    As Strat noted in Hmmm..

    "Life always finds a way"

    Which is why imho vaccine efforts should be directed at the animal host pool in order to eradicate the filovirus, ie make it extinct.

    The host is widely considered to be bats http://www.emedicine.com/MED/topic626.htm [emedicine.com] and if only a tiny portion of the grant money spent on dna twiddling was spent establishing this and looking at either eradicating the bats or vaccinating them then, perhaps, the whole filovirus family could be eradicated.

    Before all the bat-lovers start crying foul I would like to point out that it is only ebola's high mortality rate that keeps it contained. If mother nature dose a bit of her own dna twiddling and hits the sweet spot for mortality versus infectivity then haemorrhagic fever will reach Hollywood proportions.

    But, call me cynical, this would leave no recurring income for vaccine makers.

    • Before all the bat-lovers start crying foul ...

      Too late.

      IANABE, but bats have been known to eat flying insects on occasion. Seems to me that this kind of tinkering has been shown repeatedly to produce unintended consquences. In this case, I'd wager the end result would be something along the lines of less bats -> more mosquitos -> more mosquito problems -> more malaria. Or, from the malaria tinkerers perspective, more bats -> less malaria -> more ebola. Given that malaria is a greater p
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Well, before you can vaccinate a bat you need a vaccine. In order to get a vaccine you need to study the virus extensively. The goal of this "dna twiddling" is to make the virus easier to study on a larger scale. It would seem this effort is right in line with what you're suggesting. Even more so because in order to realistically vaccinate bats you're going to need an ingestible or more likely inhalable vaccine, which is harder than an injectable one so it's going to need even more study.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NIckGorton (974753)

      But, call me cynical, this would leave no recurring income for vaccine makers.

      Um, cynical wasn't exactly the word I was thinking of. Though since you can't seem to afford a clue, I'll give you one. Vaccine research is a money-loser unless you come up with an effective vaccine for western diseases - and even then its risky. At best vaccines generate $6 billion annually - that's about 1.5% of the annual pharmaceutical market worldwide. The problem is, an effective vaccine is used only a few times, and is highly cost effective. So there is not so much profit to be made. Moreover, you w

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      Before all the bat-lovers start crying foul I would like to point out that it is only ebola's high mortality rate that keeps it contained.

      Actually, that's not totally true. Ebola infection has spread in rural African villages mainly because of lack of education. Relatives of people who have died of Ebola make the mistake of directly handling the body during burial procedures, thus coming into contact with infected blood. I suppose that if Ebola had a lower mortality rate then it would become a sexually-tr

  • Talk about an iron constitution; there is no way I'd walk into a room and work for hours with a virus that violently kills almost everyone it infects, should "something go wrong".

    • Re:Nerves of steel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ajs (35943) <ajsNO@SPAMajs.com> on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @10:38AM (#22138144) Homepage Journal

      there is no way I'd walk into a room and work for hours with a virus that violently kills almost everyone it infects, should "something go wrong".
      What do you think happens should "something go wrong" when you're working with a vat of fry grease that can melt off skin at McDonalds? The risk there is much more serious, since training is much less strict and controls are not federally monitored.

      What do you think happens should "something go wrong" when you're assembling a skyscraper? Pouring molten steel? Flying a plane? Heck, just driving a car can kill you in the most horrible ways.

      If you want safe, you're pretty much hosed.

      If you want to balance risk with precaution, work in an industry where the life and death of not just you, but lots of others are on the line. You'll quickly find that the level of precaution taken is burdensome, but quite reassuring.

      PS: It doesn't kill everyone. To quote Wikipedia:

      Mortality rates are extremely high, with the human case-fatality rate ranging from 50% - 89%, according to viral subtype.[3] The cause of death is usually due to hypovolemic shock or organ failure.

      -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola [wikipedia.org] (citation from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol11no02/04-0533.htm [cdc.gov])
      • by fifedrum (611338)
        speaking of fry grease... I worked at a place where the sous chef dropped his watch into the fryer, then before he could think, reached in after it. Thankfully his hands were sloppy wet, and he didn't dip them in too far. Later that same day, the main chef deep fried the salad chef's panties in the same fryer. Nasty.

        A few years later, my brother-in-law worked for a lab working on rhinovirus and caught a cold.
      • It's fair enough to say that any job involves risks, and it certainly sounds as if this Ebola replicon is reasonably safe. On the other hand I would require convincing evidence that the virus cannot mutate to replicate without VP30, which apparently is mainly a transcription activator. Because this virus maintains its genome as RNA without ever encoding it in DNA, it has a very high mutation rate. Or that it cannot pick up a suitable gene by hybridization; co-infection with another negative strand RNA virus

      • by syousef (465911)
        If you want to balance risk with precaution, work in an industry where the life and death of not just you, but lots of others are on the line. You'll quickly find that the level of precaution taken is burdensome, but quite reassuring

        Wow what bad logic. Do you not understand that a different level of safety can apply for the worker than to the consumer in an industry. For example a coal miner may be at large risk of the mine collapsing on his sorry behind, the power engineer could be sitting on a power plant
  • Can be a vaccine... After all it would attach to the sites on a cell where a non modified virus of the same type would attach (presumably) thus robbing denying any other viruses that site...
    • That's not how vaccines work...
      • by N3WBI3 (595976)
        Really? No kidding? Its my bad for not speaking clearly... A 'sort of' vaccine... as in providing an immunity of sorts..
        • It won't even really work in the manner you've described it unless you propose injecting millions upon millions of such a "vaccine" (assuming it even does the whole attach and deny attachment thing).
  • Its currently in human trials and has 100% efficacy. They don't even need the virus on hand to R&D the vaccine, and only conduct actual FDA trials at a BSL 4 site
  • On the other hand, hyperventilation and mass Sterno consumption are known to counteract its ability to replicate.

    Now they won't need to activate that laboratory self-destruct!

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:02AM (#22138514) Homepage

    The scientists still want the virus to replicate in order to study it, so they developed monkey kidney cells which contained the protein needed.

    Hey, isn't that how the Rage virus got started? Pretty soon those monkeys will develop a taste for human brains, the military will see this as a promising new bio-weapon and, 28 days later, Milla Jovovich is naked on your shower floor washing away the zombie blood...again.

    Do these people NEVER learn?

  • Only eight genes? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RandoX (828285) on Tuesday January 22, 2008 @11:32AM (#22138888)
    If there are only eight genes, why is this specific one called VP30? Why not VP1-8? (Or VP0-7?)
    • by myc (105406)
      it might refer to molecular weight of the protein encoded by the gene, i.e., 30 kilo Daltons. Just guessing, though.

  • Maybe it will help my wife from saying she has ebola all the time when she gets the flu
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Tell her ebola outbreaks require the strictest quarantine. You love her, but you're going to have to lock her in a room by herself. Since the disease course is a week or two if she doesn't have ebola she should be fine (though unhappy) drinking the cases of bottled water and granola bars you leave her.
      • by Dan667 (564390)
        Tried that. Apparently, we are going to both die in some kind of tragic romantic way. Not sure how that works when you are bleeding from all orifices. May go back to the one of us needs to some how solder on ... meh, chicks.
  • See, biological weapons in the trivial sense aren't very useful. It's no good if your troops catch the superflu or megagonorrhea too, you know?

    Therefore in order for a strain to be adequately weaponized, it needs to be developed into something that 1) takes effect [i.e. incapacitates] very quickly after exposure, 2) doesn't linger [unless an area denial weapon is sought] and 3) doesn't spread too far outside those affected by the original deployment. This is why anthrax is close to an ideal biological weapo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Except that the modified virus doesn't spread WITHIN a host either. So nobody gets sick.
      • Yes, yes. The point is that the developers of this new strain have found a method to dial down the infectiousness of this virus. Where necessary they can also start with the original bug and dial its infectiousness down a little less. Where do you think the funding for this research comes from, anyway?

        Remember how the US was said to only use white phosphorous munitions to "light the battlefield" too? Except then reports came out about bodies in these battlefields that had been stripped of all flesh, literal
        • This isn't a "dial" its an on/off switch.

          Wouldn't white phosphorus also... you know... burn and MELT clothes?
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)
          I think you misunderstand what they've done. They've turned off the infectiousness (or at least that's what they tried to do). They haven't dialed it down, and they can't "dial it down a little less."

          In order to weaponize something you might want to make it MORE infections so it can't spread so far. Ebola doesn't have that problem, it's already TOO infectious. You might want to make it non-airborne, so it won't spread to your own troops. But you want to make it good and infectious once it's introduced
        • by PCM2 (4486)

          Yes, yes. The point is that the developers of this new strain have found a method to dial down the infectiousness of this virus.

          No, they have not. Ebola was never really "infectious" in the sense that you mean. A typical outbreak is confined to a single village, at which point the virus runs out of potential hosts. It is not airborne (except, as some have pointed out, in harmless variants) and there is no other way to catch it than by direct contact with the bodily fluids of the infected. Ironically, this

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jesus_666 (702802)
        You could inject every enemy soldier with 500ml of Ebola solution. Of course then you could also inject them with 500ml of Coca Cola, which would be far more cost effective and just as deadly. Or just inject them with a combat knife, which already is popular with the military.

        But still, if you get every enemy soldier to line up for the biggest shot of their life you could easily wipe them all out with this strain.
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)
          If they've achieved their goal, and the article is reasonably accurate, then the only way you could kill an enemy soldier with this strain would be to inject them with enough that they die from an overdose of the saline solution you use as a carrier. You'd be WAY better off with Cocoa Cola (I bet it doesn't take much of that at ALL when injected).
          • by Jesus_666 (702802)
            I think one ebola virus can still foul up one cell. So 500ml of Ebola solution injected into the brain could lead to just enough brain cells dying to kill the victim. Well, of course any fast intracranial injection of 500ml of anything is bound to create problems, especially when administered in a combat situation.

            For some reason I still don't think it's going to become the next superweapon.
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)
              I thought about that. I guess it depends what the removed protein does. It must be post-entry to the cell, otherwise cells that made the protein would still be resistant. It must prevent the virus from hijacking the cell's machinery though, and if it's early enough in the process the cell could probably carry on as if nothing had happened.

              Either way, agreed, not the next superweapon.
  • There is no BSL4 Lab at UW Madison.

    Googling "BSL4 wisconsin" will reveal many articles claiming that the university violated NIH guidelines to do this research, though it was authorized by the UW Institutional Biosafety Committee. Clearly, they have an interest in enabling research of this type at more institutions, given the great cost of operating a BSL4 facility. UW Madison lacks such a facility, yet has remained at the forefront of biotechnology research (having done pioneering work in the area of

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