Have they ever stop? The answer is yes; officially, at least. But unofficially, experimenting with lethal viruses did not stop.

Under Trump, the US government lifted a moratorium imposed by the Obama administration on financing directed to experiments with lethal viruses.

In other words, it opens the door to a series of controversial trials that can turn viruses into a deadly weapon, something that was banned since 2014 by Barack Obama.

The measure unlocks the manipulation and reinforcement of pathogens such as respiratory syndrome due to the Middle East coronavirus (MERS), influenza or the acute and severe respiratory syndrome (SARS) and extends this type of method to other viruses such as Ebola.

Why would a government, any government, would want to experiment with viruses as WMDs? 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the decision last Tuesday and stressed that these investigations can only be carried out after consideration of a group of “experts” from the agency, who must conclude that the scientific merits and benefits potentials justify the risk.

The defenders of this type of experiment, known as gain-of-function in the scientific jargon, emphasize its greater capacity for finding and developing vaccines, while the detractors put their hands to their heads because of the dangers, as any error or leakage of viruses of similar caliber could spell the mass death of the population.

The case of exceptional experiments

Obama’s moratorium came, in fact, at a time of much controversy on this matter, the same year it was learned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had accidentally exposed workers in his lab in Atlanta to an uncontrolled outbreak of anthrax.

The director of the NIH, Francis Collins, emphasized on Tuesday that investigations of this type take place after a process of deliberation carried out by experts of the public and private sector for a period of three years.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that research with infectious agents is carried out responsibly,” said Collins, who heads this public agency since 2009, at the start of the Obama era.

In addition, during the time the moratorium lasted, 10 of the 21 projects that were paralyzed obtained a waiver to go ahead with extreme security because they were considered exceptional.

It was, in particular, about experiments on MERS and influenza. For Collins, the new framework provides additional guarantees that “maximize benefit” and minimize risk.

Reality or Fiction: Lethal Viruses modified to kill cancer

What could be the side effects of using a genetically modified virus to cure cancer or any other disease for that matter?

[media url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j4kD0-hjrs” width=”685″ height=”350″]

Although the case in the video is fictional, there can’t be enough emphasis given to the fact that humans know very little about pathogens and their capacity to evolve, multiply and affect life on this planet.

In a real-life case, scientists claim that a genetically modified herpes virus can stop the progression of the most aggressive type of skin cancer, through the selective elimination of tumor cells and the activation of the body’s defenses, according to the results of a clinical trial with 436 patients.

It is the first time that a so-called experimental therapy of this type shows benefits in a phase III trial, as it is called to evaluate the safety and efficacy of what is considered to be ‘a large-scale treatment’.

The work has involved scientists from 64 centers around the world and has been led by the Cancer Research Institute, in London.

How was the experiment conducted?

The authors randomized an injection of the virus or a control treatment to the 436 patients, with malignant and inoperable melanomas.

From those patients, 16.3% who received the viral therapy, known as Talimogene Laherparepvec or T-VEC, showed a durable response rate to treatment of more than six months, compared with 2.1% of the control group, according to the conclusions of the trial, published in the journal Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Each year there are 132,000 new cases in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Most cases of Melanoma occur because people, misinformed by government agencies and pharmaceutical companies, decide to use sunscreen as protection from solar radiation.

Disinformation campaigns put out every year, warn people about the dangers of not using sunscreen as supposed to educating the population about the benefits of taking sunlight responsibly.

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