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WHO punts on smallpox

The World Health Organization is remaining mum on the issue of maintaining laboratory stocks of the smallpox virus, which the US government wants to preserve for the next five years.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Small pox virions / CDC

The World Health Organization is remaining mum on the issue of maintaining laboratory stocks of the smallpox virus, which the US government wants to preserve for the next five years. The WHO originally slated the two remaining stocks, one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the other at a federal lab in Russia, for disposal in 1993, 13 years after the disease was essentially wiped from the face of the earth in 1980. That deadline was pushed back due to pressure from the US and other developed nations, which claimed the stocks were necessary to continue research on the disease should it reappear. The WHO's policy arm, the World Health Assembly, decided this week to defer a decision on the issue until 2014. The sticking point appears to be Iran's opposition to a clause in the US resolution stating that...

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