weiler at ERS.UNR.EDU
Fri Aug 2 08:24:14 CDT 1996
On Fri, 2 Aug 1996, Thomas G. Lammers wrote:
> So I vote to do it in. Eradicate it. I see far more potential for evil
> uses of the last remaining cultures than benigh ones. Granted, we can't
> see the future; maybe smallpox could someday be our salvation. But as a
> wise man once said: "The race isn't *always* to the swift, nor the battle
> to the strong, but that's the way to bet your money."
> And in any case, we have an escape clause: we can claim that viruses aren't
> really alive anyway. That they aren't organisms because they aren't cellular.
> Somewhere in my education, I recall being told that viruses may not be a
> monophyletic group, but rather than human viruses would be more closely
> related to primates than to, for instance, tobacco mosaic virus, which would
> be more closely related to tobacco and other solanaceous angiosperms.
> Is that right, or is that completely nuts? (Geez, where's a virologist
> when you really need one?).
I'm not a virologist, but the phylogeny of viruses at large would seem to
me to be a near-impossible task; there have been billions of opportunity
for host->pathogen horizontal transfer of genetic code (the damns things
insert themselves into our genetic sequences), and the body's defense
system can work to cause extremely rapid (real time and generational time)
convergence to a sequence that when transcribed looks, smells, and acts
just like a host protein. For some sequences in HIV, for example, it
seems to me that the protein coat sequences might better reflect the
geneaological relationships between the hosts than the tranmission
As for the eradication of smallpox, how does any group defend to the
public the fact that they are responsible for the persistence of factors
that kill so many people? If there is money to be made, they by-pass
the people and go to their government. They lobby.
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