Could you make a disease kill all members of one group or another? In theory, yes.

Could you create a disease that kills all members of one sex? That premise has already been presented in several horror novels. In Frank Herbert’s novel “The White Plague”, it is a virus engineered to kill women and works only in those with two X chromosomes. In the book “Epitaph Road”, it is a genetically engineered virus that kills only men. The virus can only infect cells with Y chromosomes.

Is a sex-selected virus possible? While mitochondria are passed only from mother to child and we know of viruses that can infect them, everyone has mitochondria, so that’s not a viable solution if your goal was a plague that killed all the men like “Y: The Last Man”.

I don’t know of any viruses that target specific chromosomes, X or Y. It may be possible. Instead of targeting the sex specific chromosomes, you’d have to find a virus to which the other chromosomes impart total immunity. If it isn’t sufficiently limited, it could start killing the half of the population you wanted to save. They even mentioned that in “The White Plague” as the virus that was killing human women started killing female animals of other species.

Frankly, a virus that disproportionately kills a particular ethnic group is easier. We already know many “defective” genes impart resistance to disease. Releasing a genetically modified, more aggressive version of a disease that the population is more susceptible to is easier than trying to engineer something that only kills men or women. This is why it is a far simpler proposition to kill most of one ethnic group or people in a given region, though you will take out a lot of innocent bystanders. You can’t kill all the X, whatever X is. This is because we don’t have a current way of creating a virus that only kills people with a trait limited to a particular population such as the “Dark Angel” episode where a viral weapon was released that only killed people with an epicanthic fold, AKA, Asians. That was seen as a demonstration of the scientist’s promise to release a virus that would only kill genetically engineered individuals hiding out in the general population.

Ironically, that would be a weakness of the genetically “perfect”. They’d be more vulnerable to archaic diseases because the genes associated with them come with a cost. It is akin to modern people being more afraid of autism than measles, so they choose not to vaccinate. That is until someone releases a virus or bacteria recovered from some archeological site, knowing it will kill more of the genetically engineered than regular humans. Then again, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to implement their own “Rainbow Six” scenario and release a disease to which they and no one else is immune.

There is theoretically the option of releasing a plague to which you’ve vaccinated your own population. You might get away with it, though the fact that you’re vaccinating people against something unusual will probably be noticed by intelligence agencies. And once the pandemic starts, it will be noticed. Yet you might manage to kill the people you don’t like in the neighboring country or the invading army. However, diseases mutate. All it has to do is mutate past your vaccine and you’re dying, too. The book “Dome” features a particularly virulent strain that kills all life on the surface before it evolves to attack birds, dolphins and fish. The remnants of humans living under the sea struggle to move deeper and fight over resources they need for long term survival. The most ironic part of that novel is that one of the most plausible aspects – people living under the sea– is the least likely to occur. A biowarfare strain may kill all people in a matter of weeks, but aggressively mutating to kill every warm blooded creature in months is implausible.

It is plausible that someone could invent a pathogen that kills everything, but I don’t think even environmentalists who want 90% of humanity deadwould risk going that far. Even Thanos just took half, for a while.

Yet we do have the technology today to kill everyone. It just isn’t biotech. Watch 1950s through 1980s post-apocalyptic movies, and you see that the big fear was irradiating the planet to a crisp via nuclear weapons. Or we could use neutron bombs to literally kill everything down to the bacteria floating through the air. Fortunately, almost no one actually wants to.


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