When a Paper Can Be a Weapon: Scientists Debate Ways to Police Research on Dangerous Germs

When a Paper Can Be a Weapon: Scientists Debate Ways to Police Research on Dangerous Germs 1

CAMR, A. Barry Dowsett, Photo Researchers Inc.

Unable to culture the SARS virus (shown here) in the laboratory, scientists synthesized a closely-related germ but wondered if the attempt could aid terrorists.

Enlarge Image
close When a Paper Can Be a Weapon: Scientists Debate Ways to Police Research on Dangerous Germs 1

CAMR, A. Barry Dowsett, Photo Researchers Inc.

Unable to culture the SARS virus (shown here) in the laboratory, scientists synthesized a closely-related germ but wondered if the attempt could aid terrorists.

At this moment, scientists are trying to publish a paper that shows how bird flu can become easily transmitted among mammals, through the air. Just a few years ago, another group of researchers published a report showing they could synthesize a virus closely related to the one that causes SARS. And a few years before that, scientists published work illustrating how a mousepox virus could be made lethal to even vaccinated animals.

Such knowledge, in the hands of terrorists, could