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The Dangers of Expanding HIV's Host Range

Scientists attending the Asilomar conference at Pacific Grove, Calif., in February 1975, made history by expressing public concern about the then newly recognized opportunities for splicing DNA artificially from one organism to another. Some possibilities—such as the introduction into the ubiquitous Escherichia coli of genes coding for botulinum toxin—were seen as so risky that they would never even be attempted. But many other fears ventilated at that time have proved to be un-fou

Alexander Kohn

Scientists attending the Asilomar conference at Pacific Grove, Calif., in February 1975, made history by expressing public concern about the then newly recognized opportunities for splicing DNA artificially from one organism to another. Some possibilities—such as the introduction into the ubiquitous Escherichia coli of genes coding for botulinum toxin—were seen as so risky that they would never even be attempted. But many other fears ventilated at that time have proved to be un-founded. Most researchers now believe that the products of recombinant DNA research are most unlikely to upset an organic world that took millions of years to develop and maintain.

Nevertheless, our vigilance should not be impaired by a false sense of security. Against that background, there is one type of genetic manipulation I believe should be questioned. The subject of this research is human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is responsible for AIDS, now spreading throughout the world as...

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