Smallpox, caused by two strands of Variola virus - Variola major and Variola minor. It was one of the most deadly virus with a mortality rate of 30 - 50% for Variola major, and 1% for Variola minor. (Cancer has a mortality rate of 12.49%.) Much effort has been put into fighting the virus as early as 15th century in Asia, where doctors will apply the tissue collected from the pus to healthy people in order to vaccinate them. The Chinese Emperor Chian-Lung even only consider those who have had survived smallpox as the candidate of the thorn. When the Spanish arrived in America, they brought smallpox with them, caused massive deaths among the Aztects. There is no way to treat smallpox except using vaccination as prevention. Thus, the only way to counteract to it is by vaccinating everyone around the discovered patient. Through many years of tracing disease and vaccinating individuals. It has been declared eradicated by WHO in 1979, where the very last case known was reported in Somalia. Although eradicated, the virus is still being preserved in many labs, mostly in United States. Right after the 911 incident in 2001, many feared the terrorists would use smallpox as an agent of bioterrorism. The U.S. government is now taking precautions for outbreak.
The smallpox vaccines we use nowadays are consists of live Vaccinia virus, which belongs to the same family as Variola. The Vaccinia virus can induce antibodies that are cross-protective for smallpox, thus build up the resistant to smallpox virus. However, it leaves a small scar on the skin where the vaccination was applied. Under this context, the underground Synthetic Biology scientists developed a whole new smallpox vaccination technique. By modifying the Variola virus and manipulating the scar formation, the vaccine can not only induce antibodies to protect the subject from smallpox, but also create the patterns desired on subject’s skin.
Later on, the scientists even started a new cosmetic company named VaccineBeauty. All their products can function as smallpox vaccine as well as cosmetics for fashionable people.
A new research published on The Royal Society Publishing Interface in 2014 discover there is an increasing trend of emerging infectious diseases (Smith et. al., 2014). At the same time, scientists are searching for new techniques to monitoring emerging infectious diseases through technique of metagenomics. (Mokili et. al., 2012), just like weather report, to search for potential presence of pathogens. The large scale outbreaks of Ebola, MERS, and measles also makes WHO start to look for alternative methods of epidemic preventions.
As more and more superbugs appears, it became a race between human beings and pathogens. The fast evolving speed of pathogens force us to be one step ahead in order to survive. Human have to protect ourselves using vaccines before any outbreaks instead of waiting for outbreaks to develop vaccines. However, because the unpredictable nature of diseases, even a person appear to be healthy, he might already carries infectious disease, and dies the next moment.
Scientists obtain the technique for making pus-shaped bumps on the skin, which became a fashion within the teenagers. At the same time, due to the decline of Europe, and the rising of China and Idea, the new discussion of bioethics start to explore the eastern philosophy around medicine. Instead of combating the pathogens, the focus shift towards how to enhance human immune system for unpredicted infectious diseases.
VaccineBeauty company established. Combining vaccines with makeups, it becomes a new way of declaring ‘my body is safe from infectious diseases’. At the same time, Smallpox Research published the book ‘Smallpox Chronicle’ as the very first book in the history written from the perspective of co-evolution between smallpox and human.
Photography: FrenchFries.tw Li-Wei Chen
Models: Yi-Ling Wu, Pomin Wu, Chih-Yu Kan, Ni-Chun Jen, Kent Lee, Jhih-Yin Lin
Science Consultant: Fenix Cheng-Tsung Pan
Special Thanks: Yi-Ling Wu. Guan-Shuo Mai, Yi-Cheng Sun, Chih-Wei Chuang, Po Peng