Word is spreading on Internet sites that the U.S. government will profit from the Ebola crisis because a patent it holds on the virus would allow it to make money on treatments. However, a top Ebola researcher tells Newsmax Health that these conspiracy theories are off base.
It’s true that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does hold a patent on one strain of Ebola. However, it is not the type that is causing the current outbreak, said David Sanders, professor of biological sciences at Purdue University.
What’s more, the government holds patents on many microbes discovered in its labs and there is “nothing nefarious” about it,” says Sanders, who has done research into how to prevent Ebola from being used as a biological weapon.
Websites including The Common Sense Show, Natural News, and White Out Press have spread the word about the U.S. patent on Ebola, along with headlines hypothesizing that government’s intention is to “raise billions from a pandemic.” “
Sanders said that the government patents viruses and other disease-causing microbes to make sure the pathogens remain available for research purposes in the public domain. If a private company held the patents, it could potentially hold onto pathogens or charge licensing fees that would stifle research to find treatments.
“The CDC does hold some patents on life forms, but it generally does this for the common good, so a commercial company can’t come along and patent it,” Sanders told Newsmax Health.
“The CDC lets researchers work with the strain without fees,” he said.
The CDC’s patent on a strain of the Ebola virus, Ebola Bundibugyo (EboBun), was granted in 2010. The agency had applied for it a year earlier. The CDC’s genetic sequencing of the virus, which is found in Uganda, was performed in 2007, according to the patent application.
EboBun is not the strain of Ebola that is now spreading. The current outbreak, which has killed more than 3,400 people, is caused by the Zaire Ebola virus (EBOV).
The trend toward germ patents started in 1980 when a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed the patenting of life forms. The decision in that case, which involved a bacterium that could consume oil, opened the floodgates to the patenting of genes, plants, bioengineered crops, and more.
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