Is Free Displaying Of Viruses' Sequences On Genbank Somehow Harmful?
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13.4 years ago
Anima Mundi ★ 2.9k

Hello,

This is just a curiosity. Do you think that displaying of viral sequences on GenBank is somehow harmful? There are certain viral highly informative regions that could be used to create biohazards.

genbank sequence subjective • 2.0k views
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13.4 years ago
Will 4.5k

Jumping from a sequence in a text file to nucleotides in a viral capsid is a VERY long road. Anyone with the requisite knowledge, experience, equipment and desire would not be inhibited by a pay-wall or other administrative hoops. They've already jumped though plenty of hoops just to get the equipment.

Also an enterprising mad scientist would likely just splice together genes from viruses already available in the wild. If one wanted to make a "resistant" or "extra-virulent" strain they would probably use random mutagenesis techniques (X-ray and chemical methods). These techniques have already created bacteria and plants resistant to all but the most toxic of poisons. I myself have even made toxin resistant plants using only a standard microwave (and lots of patience).

So no, I would argue that hiding viral sequences would not prevent any mad scientist from creating the next "super-bug".

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By the sane token, a mad scientist could use it create the next antibiotic. That's why the information is public. In the my workplace, we use this very information to design new vaccines. Not working by now, but without this info we not would even try!

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13.4 years ago
Mary 11k

Well, seed catalogs sell Castor Beans--which can kill. Actually, I saw a really good talk about killer plants recently (totally not bioinformatics http://www.cornell.edu/video/index.cfm?VideoID=918 ). There's plenty of stuff in use that can do that too. Some of it probably in your institution's landscaping.

To make this more bioinformatics-y I'll add a link to the structure of ricin from PDB. This probably also ensures that this site will be investigated by the FBI...

Please also enjoy "Molecule of the Month" Cholera toxin....

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13.4 years ago

I don't think that creating a biohazard is easier than creating cures.

Considering how much effort goes into creating solutions and progress is still only one small step at a time it is probably safe to say that (at least for the near future) there is little potential for using the GeneBank info for greater evil.

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