June 17, 2003

Emerging Infections

Beyond Cute: Exotic Pets Come Bearing Exotic Germs. As the human population continues to grow and as we start to encroach on areas that had little human contact prior, you can be sure that new microbes will find their way to us. This New York Times article makes mention of the new monkeypox cases that have been hyped recently. Personally, I think that monkeypox is not as problematic as that of SARS, but with it the scientific community can definitely learn a lot about how new emerging infections can take a foothold early in a population. The article even talks about poxvirus. An interesting quote from the article: The most familiar member of the pox virus family is in some ways the most mysterious. Many people assume that vaccinia, the virus used to make smallpox vaccine, is the same virus that causes cowpox and that was first used by Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796 to vaccinate people against smallpox. In fact, vaccinia is not the cowpox virus. It is a distinct species, and scientists do not know where it came from. But in the early days of vaccination, there was no way to store a vaccine, so people were usually vaccinated with secretions taken from other people or animals. Scientists have speculated that such arm-to-arm passage may have created a hybrid of smallpox and cowpox, or perhaps even brought in a type of horsepox that no longer exists in nature.

Posted by johnvu at June 17, 2003 11:36 AM
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