The article tells the story of the Danysz Virus, a bacterial culture which was designed and deployed to cause epidemics among rodents, and was sold globally by the Institut Pasteur from 1900. Jean Danysz (1860-1928) initially identified the culture during his studies of epidemics in population cycles of common voles. His experiments turned to the ambitious goal of increasing the bacteria’s virulence by emulating the rodent’s animal economy in the laboratory to mass-produce a culture. The bacteria was supposed to bring about a man-made epidemic for sale for the global pest and plague control market. The article considers the Danysz Virus as a “cognitive good,” and analyses the material as well as intellectual transfers that shaped its development, supported its international application and prompted the experimental replication of its promises. While the culture largely failed to bring about the required exponential growth of lethal infections in rat populations, the Virus succeeded in distributing Danysz’s theoretical revision of virulence. Through commercial distribution, his product recast virulence as a function of the relation between bacteria and their milieu and offered a novel concept of mutual pathogenicity, which far exceeded deterministic models of infection prevalent at the time.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 6 Nov 2020|