Recombinant Vaccinia infects lab worker

Development of pox-like lesions suggests vaccination doesn't protect against altered viruses.

Ricki Lewis(rickilewis@nasw.org)
Mar 31, 2003

Reinstating smallpox vaccination programs to protect the public against bioterrorism is currently a topic of considerable debate. Some countries additionally recommend the practice for laboratory workers who encounter Vaccinia, the cowpox virus that is the basis of the vaccine and which is used as a cassette in other vaccines. Acquiring active infection by working with Vaccinia has been assumed to be unlikely, but in the March 2003 Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Martin Mempel and colleagues at the Technical University, Munich, Germany, describe a 40-year-old Caucasian male who developed pox-like lesions on a finger on each hand after working with Vaccinia (The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 120:356-258, March, 2003).

Mempel et al. recognized vesicles that gradually turned into raised, dark nodules as similar to those that develop during cowpox infection. The patient had no contact with farm animals, but had worked with lab strains of Vaccinia...

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