Control of re-emergent smallpox following a bioterrorism attack

Smallpox was eradicated in 1980, but is a renewed threat since Canadian scientists created an extinct poxvirus (closely related to smallpox) in a lab using mail order DNA in 2017. This shows that smallpox could also be manufactured in a lab. With over half the population never vaccinated against smallpox, and waning vaccine immunity in the remainder, the impact of smallpox today would be devastating. Travel and globalisation mean that infections spread rapidly around the world, so that global solutions are required for epidemic control. This research includes modelling, immunology, risk analysis, dual use research of concern and phylogenetic epidemiology, as well as novel methods for detection of bioterrorism attacks. Ongoing work includes testing of the response to an emerging epidemic, testing of vaccination, health systems and personal protective equipment in an attack scenario. We also conducted a hypothetical exercise of smallpox release in August 2018 to test cross-sectoral responses.

Key contact

Faculty of Medicine
0410651612
r.macintyre@unsw.edu.au