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Leading Siberian scientists protect Winter Olympics from threat of bio-terror virus attacks

By The Siberian Times reporter
10 February 2014

Special testing kits sent to Sochi amid 'fears from Japan' and other countries over risk from deliberate deadly disease strike.

Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Research Centre is a major research and production centre focusing on molecular biology, virology, genetic engineering, biotechnology, and epidemiology. Picture: gamma-group.com

The testing kits can quickly diagnose the viruses linked to Marburg, Ebola, Lassa, Machupo, Dengue and Yellow fevers, explained Aleksander Agafonov, deputy director for science of the Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Research Centre, near Novosibirsk. The centre is internationally recognised as a world leader in its field. 

'Any person who contracts an illness in or around Sochi must be taken for checkups,' said Agafonov. 'The anti-epidemic crews consist of infection specialists and physicians who are capable of identifying the disease they are faced with'. The experts from high-security Koltsovo scientific town developed six test systems that they sent to Sochi in case Olympic participants or fans complaining about infectious diseases. 

'This is due to the fears of some Olympic Games participants, for example Japan, that by chance or deliberately viruses causing dangerous diseases can be delivered to Sochi,' said Dr Agafonov, according to a report in the Novosibirsk edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda. 'Some countries believe that bacteria causing dangerous disease can be deliberately brought into Sochi,' reported the newspaper.

Two independent tests are used to check for these deadly diseases, said the scientist, according to Itar-Tass news agency. In December 2013, the Vector researchers obtained an official permission from the Russian Health Ministry for application of these diagnostic kits in the country. 

The Tokyo subway was hit by bio-terrorist attacks using deadly sarin in March 1995, killing 13 people, seriously injuring around 50, and causing vision problems for hundreds more. 

Leading Siberian scientists protect Winter Olympics from threat of bio-terror virus attacks

The Tokyo subway was hit by bio-terrorist attacks using deadly sarin in March 1995. Picture: Metro Japan

It is also reported that Novosibirsk researchers have helped Russian law enforcement agencies in countering another kind of virus - to hit computers. 

The Institute of Computational Mathematics and Mathematical Geophysics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences shared their developments in information protection to assist searches for criminals, preventing crimes as well as protecting secret information. 

Yuri Zybarev, deputy director of information technology at the institute, said: 'In fact the basic groundwork of the Sochi Olympics information security system was created here in Novosibirsk Akademgorodok'. 

The Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Research Centre, also known as the Vector Institute, is a major research and production centre focusing on molecular biology, virology, genetic engineering, biotechnology, and epidemiology. The centre was a trailblazer in inventing and launching the production of test systems for the HIV and Hepatitis B diagnostic justification, and manufactured the only internal vaccine against the Hepatitis A virus.

It is one of only two official repositories in the world for the now-eradicated smallpox virus. In Soviet times it was involved in biological warfare research.

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