(Statnews) – For years there have been warnings that advances in science could make it possible to cook up killer diseases in laboratories and unleash them on the world.

This week came news that scientists at the University of Alberta have put together from scratch a relative of the smallpox virus — and a reminder that the threat of deadly viruses created by humans is more than theoretical.

The smallpox virus, which triggered brutal disease for centuries, was declared eradicated in 1980 after a successful global effort to end its reign of terror. But some scientists fear that it could be revived through what’s known as synthetic biology — the ability to make a virus by putting together by the recipe outlined in its genetic code.

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