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February 8, 1995

Smallpox Virus Destruction Delayed Yet Again

JAMA. 1995;273(6):446. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520300016007

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THE PERILS of Pauline are nothing to the vicissitudes that are befalling variola. The 15-year-long maneuvering involved in getting everyone to agree to destroy the remaining stocks of the world's smallpox virus—stored in the United States and in Russia—has run into yet another hitch.

The virus' destruction was originally scheduled by the World Health Organization (WHO) for December 1993, after its molecular structure had been sequenced. Destruction was delayed because some scientists believed that keeping the live virus offered opportunities for further research, and the date was set for June 1995 (JAMA. 1993;270:2908). Now the final date has been delayed again.

The executive board of the WHO, sensing a difference of opinion among the delegates on the committee charged with deciding the virus' fate, has recommended that a vote for decision not be brought to the WHO general assembly until a greater consensus is obtained, according to a US government

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