Interviews with former Russian army colonels suggest that the Russian military considered employing monkeypox as a biological weapon until the early 1990s. Ken Alibek claimed to have influenced over 32,000 individuals in 40 different institutions as deputy head of the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program until its dissolution in 1991, and as leader of the Russian Federation’s successor until a year later.
After arriving in the United States, he stated that the Soviets had researched a number of contagious diseases for use in warfare, with a focus on smallpox until it was eradicated through global vaccination campaigns, forcing them to abandon their notion.
In an interview with CBWNP personnel in 1998, he stated, “It would be impossible to explain to the world community” how any stray cases produced by an unintentional Russian release would now be “impossible to explain.”
He described a novel technique for selecting “model” viruses that may be used instead of human smallpox. As smallpox models, vaccine virus, mousepox virus, rabbitpox virus, and monkeypox virus were used.
The intention was to do all research and development on these model viruses. Once we had a set of positive results, we would only need two weeks to repeat the experiments with the smallpox virus and stockpile the warfare agent. ‘We’d have a genetically modified smallpox virus in our arsenal to replace the current one.’
According to Dr. Alibek, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has continued research on monkeypox in order to build “future biological weapons.” He was invited to appear before a congressional panel the following year, and stated that he was “convinced that Russia’s biological weapons program has not been completely dismantled.” Several years after he first made his assertions, an ex-United Nations weapons inspector validated them.
Former United Nations Special Commission member Jonathan Tucker told Reuters that monkeypox might have evolved into a bioweapon. He contended that vaccination would provide adequate protection against smallpox epidemics, despite the fact that many countries had only stored limited stocks of the vaccine since the disease was eradicated.
“There is no confirmation that (monkeypox) leaked out,” an anonymous former UN weapons inspector was reported in the publication as saying. During a subsequent interview for the same report, he stated that, while he was unaware of any leaks, ‘having any of the orthopoxviruses (smallpox, camelpox, and monkeypox) was not a concern.’
There was no evidence that monkeypox could be passed from person to person at the time of publishing. Prolonged face-to-face contact, on the other hand, can now spread the virus.
However, according to Sajid Javid, the health secretary, there are now 20 cases in the UK, though the “most of cases” are mild. The virus has now been found in nine new countries outside of Central and West Africa, where the majority of previous cases were discovered. Experts in Africa are perplexed by the virus’s global expansion. As a precaution, the UK is stockpiling smallpox vaccines.