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The World in Medicine
December 15, 2004

Smallpox Studies

JAMA. 2004;292(23):2827. doi:10.1001/jama.292.23.2827-c

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.

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