Smallpox virus: crunch time for the fate of a global killer
“Twenty miles south-east of Novosibirsk, in Siberia, several dozen concrete buildings have been erected outside the town of Koltsovo. The settlement is ringed with triple rows of barbed wire fences. Video cameras and motion sensors monitor any activity near the wires while soldiers from an elite Russian army unit patrol its perimeter.
This is Russia’s State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology – or Vector, as it is usually known. Frozen in winter, when temperatures plunge below -30oC, and then scorched in summer, when the heat routinely rises above 30oC, the place is as unwelcoming as you could imagine. Given its name, location and a high-security protection, Vector would make an ideal setting for a James Bond film.
This would be a fitting accolade, for Vector contains a number of unsettling scientific secrets, with the most sinister being housed in bio-containment laboratory P-4, in Building 6. Here a small storage plant, chilled by liquid nitrogen, holds phials of one of the deadliest pathogens known to medical science: the smallpox virus…”