Scientists eradicate rinderpest virus; second in history after smallpox

The rinderpest virus is the second virus to have been eliminated by humans, according to a new report.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor on

The rinderpest virus is the second virus to have been eliminated by humans, according to a BBC report.

A virus that affected cattle, domestic buffalo, and some species of wildlife, it was quite deadly, causing 80 percent of infected livestock to die. It's also the first animal virus to be eliminated in the wild.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization called it the "biggest achievement of veterinary history," reports The Guardian.

The first disease that humans eradicated was smallpox. (Meanwhile, the Australian scientist who eradicated smallpox thinks humans will go extinct in 100 years.)

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has 17 "neglected" tropical diseases in its sights.

In a report entitled, "Working to covercome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases," are plans to control these tropical diseases by 2015, and possibly eliminate them with the help of pharmaceutical drug donations.

"The evidence is now overwhelming. Existing interventions, including safe, simple and effective medicines, are having an impact," said WHO director-general Margaret Chan in a statement. "By expanding coverage, we can actually prevent many of these diseases. This is a first-time opportunity for some very ancient diseases."

Climate change and other factors have caused diseases like dengue fever to spread to areas that were previously thought to be disease-free. The changing conditions have provided optimal breeding conditions for the mosquitoes to bite in more areas throughout the world.

One nation with an answer? Malaysia, which will be the first country in Asia to release genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue fever.

Previously, I wrote about an entomologist at University of Arizona who is trying to engineer malaria-resistant mosquitoes.

In the race to eliminate the worst viruses, can humans outsmart Mother Nature?

Image: Rajnish Kaushik/Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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