A scientist from Soviet Russia disclosed in graphic detail how the country’s former bioweapons ambitions led to substantial research into using monkeypox against its opponents, research that may have continued even after the USSR dissolved.
Over the weekend, 71 additional instances of monkeypox were detected in England, raising the overall number of cases in the country to 190, according to the UK Health Security Agency. (UKHSA). Anyone afflicted with the virus, which spreads by “direct contact with a confirmed case, droplets, or contaminated surfaces and objects,” is advised to avoid sex for eight weeks and to wear condoms as a precaution. While the danger to the general public is low, the UKHSA advises individuals to watch for new rashes or lesions.
Monkeypox was named following two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in monkey research colonies in 1958. It is composed of approximately 12 African countries from West and Central Africa.
While it has been largely quiet in recent decades, its resurgence has resulted in disturbing archive reports of an interview with Dr. Ken Alibek, a former Soviet scientist. In 1998, he indicated that the country had begun investigating the use of monkeypox as a bioweapon earlier in the decade.
Former deputy chief of the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 — and who continued in the Russian Federation’s successor until the following year — claims he had authority over 32,000 personnel in over 40 locations.
After leaving Russia for the United States, Dr. Alibek disclosed that the Soviets focused on a range of deadly diseases for use in warfare, emphasizing smallpox until it was completely eradicated through a global vaccination program.
In an interview with the American Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project (CBWNP), he claimed that the USSR instead focused on monkeypox, claiming that smallpox had been ruled out because of an accidental leak among the population would be “difficult to explain to the international community.”
“As a result, we created a novel program to assess which model viruses may be used in place of human smallpox,” he explained. As smallpox models, we used vaccinia virus, mousepox virus, rabbitpox virus, and monkeypox virus.”
“Once we got a set of positive results, we’d just need two weeks to apply the same alterations to the smallpox virus and stockpile the warfare agent.”
According to Dr. Alibek, the Russian Ministry of Defense chose to continue research on monkeypox even after the USSR broke up to “develop future biological weapons.”