Come On Down, Miss Chimera Virus!


Bioweapon 1: Chimera Viruses

In Greek and Roman mythology, the chimera combined elements of lion, goat and serpent into one monstrous form. Artists in the late medieval age often used the creature as a symbol to illustrate the complex nature of evil. In modern genetic science, a chimeric organism is a life form that contains genes from a foreign species. Given its namesake, you might expect all chimeric organisms to be awful examples of man twisting nature for nefarious ends. Fortunately, our increased understanding of genetic science has led to some beneficial creations. One such chimera, which combines the common cold with polio, may help cure brain cancer.
But as the war continues its forward momentum through human history, the abuse of such science is inevitable. Geneticists have already discovered the means to increase the lethality of such bioweapons as smallpox and anthrax by tweaking their genetic structure. By combining genes, however, scientists could theoretically create a virus that triggered two diseases at once. During the late 1980s, the Soviet Union's Chimera Project studied the feasibility of combining smallpox and Ebola into one super virus [source: Alibek].

Other potential nightmare scenarios involve strains of viruses that require certain triggers. A stealth virus would remain dormant for an extended period until triggered by predetermined stimuli. Other possible chimeric bioweapons might require two components to become effective. Imagine a strain of botulinum toxin that, when combined with the botulinum toxin antidote, only becomes more lethal. Such a biological attack would not only result in a higher mortality rate, but might erode public trust in health initiatives, aid workers and government response to the outbreak.

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