The global eradication of smallpox as a threat to human health is one of the milestone achievements of modern medical science. It was accomplished through a unique international collaboration sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and directed by virologist Donald A. Henderson, who now serves as deputy assistant secretary in the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The principal research centers supporting the eradication program were in Moscow and in Atlanta. While this collaboration was proceeding, the Cold War also nourished a high degree of mutual suspicion between the U.S. and the then-USSR about the possible abuse of such research for potential application in biological weaponry. While there are many technical reasons for giving smallpox very low priority as a weapon threat, there was great pressure to conclude an agreement to destroy all research stocks of the smallpox (variola) virus, as part of confidence-building between the superpowers....

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