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Pandemic series: attack using a genetically engineered virus by 2020?

Given the dramatic advances in our ability to understand and modify the genome of organisms, the idea of a pathogen that has been genetically engineered (rather than artificially selected) to increase its virulence, transmissibility, or scope of effect is a rapidly growing concern.

As discussed in this question, researchers have successfully "upgraded" H5N1 to be airborne, using techniques that could also be applied to MERS and SARs — all pathogens with high virulence but low transmissibility. One could also imagine increasing the virulence of highly-transmissible flus or other illnesses. Techniques used by these groups have been published and are thus available to other researchers with sufficient expertise.

Bioweapons research on large scales is outlawed by the Bioweapons Convention, but this did not prevent the Soviets from following a massive program into the 1980s and perhaps 1990s, and it is quite possible that clandestine programs exist today using more modern techniques.

Genetic engineering also opens up possibilities that do not exist in nature or earlier research efforts. For example, pathogens could be engineered to attack people with genetic markers strongly correlated with particular races or types of ancestry (as so-called "ethnic bioweapon"). An agent might even target an individual person's genome.

As these techniques grow more powerful and accessible, we ask how likely is such an attack, which would combine ability to genetically engineer pathogens with intent to cause harm (or at least act without consent):

By 2020 will a human be deliberately infected (without their consent) by a pathogenic virus genetically engineered to increase its virulence, transmissibility, or scope of effect?

The question resolves as positive whether or not the attack is successful, but should be termed an attack: deliberate and unfriendly. Resolution is by report from a credible media, government or other source.


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