Scientists Discover A New Toxin That's Too Dangerous To Publicize



In news that seems straight out of a Hollywood thriller, scientists have ID'd a form of botulinum toxin — the first new form in over 40 years — that is so dangerous, the details have to be kept secret. The research was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases earlier this month in deliberately incomplete form, because right now, there are no known antibodies for the toxin. Translation? There is no cure available if the poison were to be used as a biological weapon. That scenario might seem like perfect fodder for a Tom Cruise- or Daniel Craig-led blockbuster, but a Japanese terrorist group attempted an attack using a botulinum toxin in the '90s, so it's not impossible.

While the scientific community seems to unanimously agree that, in this instance, the safest plan of action is to keep the DNA sequence of the bacteria that created the toxin under wraps, the discovery — and subsequent secrecy — raises questions about how researchers should control and distribute information. But what's really scary about this new toxin? It was found in a child's feces — which makes diaper-duty an even more terrifying prospect. (NPR)

mainPhoto: Via NPR/James Cavallini/Science Source.