A World Health Organization (WHO) Advisory committee recommended last
month that the agency allow scientists to genetically alter the smallpox virus
for research purposes. The WHO Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research
comprises members from all WHO regions and is advised by experts in public
health and other areas.
The alteration involves adding a marker gene to help screen drugs for
their effectiveness in killing the virus. The gene would cause live genetically
altered smallpox viruses to glow green when exposed to fluorescent light;
dead viruses would not fluoresce, giving an indication of a prospective drug’s
potency for treating the infection.
Stephenson J. Smallpox Studies. JAMA. 2004;292(23):2827. doi:10.1001/jama.292.23.2827-c