Smallpox

Reservoirs

Humans were the only natural reservoir of variola. All known variola virus stocks are held under security at the CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, or the State Research Center (SRC) of Virology and Biotechnology, Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Region, Russian Federation (RF).
  • Before global eradication, the only reservoir for variola virus was humans. Variola virus does not persist or reactivate in individuals who have recovered from smallpox infection. Thus, no natural reservoir for the virus currently exists (Rotz 2010: Smallpox as an agent of bioterrorism. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and practice of infectious diseases. Ed 7. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2010;2:3977-81).
  • Stocks of variola virus have been retained in two World Health Organization (WHO)-approved collaborating centers: the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and the State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR (also known as the Vector Institute), Koltsovo, Novosibirsk Region, Russia (WHO 2001). All legitimate research with variola virus is now conducted within these two centers under biosafety level (BSL)-4 conditions, using a WHO-approved research agenda (Rotz 2010: Smallpox as an agent of bioterrorism. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and practice of infectious diseases. Ed 7. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2010;2:3977-81).
  • There are concerns that not all the smallpox preparations developed in the Russian bioweapons program can be accounted for and that unknown caches of variola virus may exist (Henderson 1998).
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