This apocalyptic image is a common starting scene in sci-fi novels, movies, and videogames but a newly-published study by a group of international scientists now warns that the picture is closer to reality.
Lab-created synthetic viruses could cause a global pandemic that eventually would lead to widespread death, according to the US-based think-tank "Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation".
“There is a substantial probability that a pandemic with over one hundred million fatalities could be seeded from an undetected lab-acquired infection”, a Senior Science Fellow at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Lynn Klotz said, cited by The Humanoid.
In particular, the virus outbreak could be caused by "human error" in secured bio laboratories, where one infected staffer could become a transmitter of a synthetic-created infection that, in turn, would be hyper-contagious, the study warns.
According to Klotz, the risk of those viruses escaping from a special secured facility is “as high as 30 percent, a risk too dangerous to live with”.
The earlier research conducted by Klotz, citing fellow scientists, suggested, for instance, that the quick spread of the H1N1 in 2009 pandemic virus - also known as "swine flu" - throughout the world, "no matter what attempts were made to slow it, is convincing evidence that it is nearly impossible to stop an influenza pandemic once it appears".
The study also points to the high possibility that “malevolent individuals, organizations, or governments” with “sinister motives” could use lab-created pathogens as real biological weapons.
According to the research, one possible prevention measure is to quarantine lab staffers after shifts and relocate biological and virus facilities to remote, lightly populated areas.
The scholar also suggested that a lab originated virus escape could be undetectable, indicating that humanity may never notice the gruesome consequences until it is too late.