Debate continues over eradication of smallpox

More than 30 years after smallpox was eradicated from the globe, an intense debate has surfaced over what to do with the remaining stockpiles of the disease, with some advocating for complete eradication.

In two high-security facilities in Russia and the United States, hundreds of vials of smallpox are being held. Now, some public health authorities, infectious disease specialists and national security experts are saying that the time has come to destroy them, according to the Washington Post.

"We feel the world would be safer without having these stocks in existence," Lim Li Ching, a researcher at Third World Network, an international research and advocacy group based in Malaysia, said, the Washington Post reports. "Why risk it escaping and resurging again?"

The governments of the United States and Russia, which have delayed the destruction of the samples in the past, are fighting for yet another postponement. They make the case that scientists need the samples of the living virus to make a better vaccine should smallpox reappear, either by accident or by a terrorist engineering the disease using records of its DNA.

"We still have work to do to protect the public," Ali Khan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said, according to the Washington Post. The CDC currently holds a collection of about 450 strains.

The debate will continue until May, when the World Health Organization is expected to vote on whether to condemn the virus to extinction.