Museum Director Calls for Increased Funding for Scientific Collections to Save Lives

Smithsonian.com - As the director of the National Museum of Natural History, it isn't surprising that Kirk Johnson believes that people should make use of his museum's collections. What is surprising is the group of people whom Johnson is addressing: infectious disease researchers.

Nobody knew whether this was an exotic virus recently introduced to the area or if it was something that was already present. To find out, researchers turned to frozen rodents at the Museum of Southwest Biology at the University of New Mexico as well as the Museum at Texas Tech University. Both institutions had collected the animals as part of field biology programs—740 frozen mice were tested, dating back to 1979. It turned out that the dangerous strain of hantavirus had been endemic all along.

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