Scientists warn that a new pathogen could kill almost 10 percent of the world's population of 7.6 billion people.
Researchers at John Hopkins University used a computer to simulate the spread of a new type of "parainfluenza," called "Clade X," by a terrorist group.
In the simulation, a make-believe doomsday cult released a genetically engineered virus. After 20 months from the start of the outbreak, there were 150 million dead around the world and still no vaccine had been developed.
The researchers say the simulation would have ended with up to 900 million dead. What is even more alarming is that the pathogen as designed was no more dangerous than SARS, a virus that killed 775 people worldwide.
Eric Toner of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health Security says the world was 'lucky' the SARS outbreak wasn't worse.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause more than 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the US each year.
The Pentagon has warned that simple modifications to bacteria could create diseases which were immune to all known antibiotics.
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