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"Russia has researched the genetic alteration of smallpox," Alibek told me. "In 1990 and 1991, we engineered a smallpox at Vector. It was found that several areas of the smallpox genome" -- the DNA -- "can be used for the introduction of some foreign genetic material. The first development was smallpox and VEE. VEE, or Venezuelan equine encephalitis, is a brain virus. It causes a severe headache and near-coma, but it is generally not lethal. Alibek said that the researchers spliced VEE into smallpox. The result was a recombinant chimera virus. In ancient Greek myth, the chimera was a monster made from parts of different animals. Recombination means the mixing of genes from different organisms. "It is called smallpox-VEE chimera," Alibek said. It could also be called Veepox. Under a microscope, Alibek said, the Veepox looks like smallpox, but it isn't.
More recently, Alibek claims, the Vector researchers may have created a recombinant Ebola-smallpox chimera. One could call it Ebolapox. Ebola virus uses the molecule RNA for its genetic code, whereas smallpox uses DNA. Alibek believes that the Russian researchers made a DNA copy of the disease-causing parts of Ebola, then grafted them into smallpox. Alibek said he thinks that the Ebolapox virus is stable -- that is, that it will replicate successfully in a test tube or in animals -- which means that, once created, Ebolapox will live forever in a laboratory, and will not uncreate itself. Thus a new form of life may have been brought into the world.