Item #: SCP-652
Object Class: Keter (provisional depending on research findings re ecological risk)
Special Containment Procedures: SCP-652 is to be stored in a cylindrical container made of Plexiglas or other acrylic glass a minimum of 1/4 inch thick, with a volume no greater than 500 milliliters (current container has a volume of 350 milliliters). It must be kept in an artificial solution similar to mammalian blood, at a temperature of between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius; the cylinder must be kept in its insulating container when not being studied, and if air conditioning or heating fails when it is being studied, it must be returned to the container immediately. It should be kept only at SCP facilities between latitudes 35 N and 30 S and more than 10 miles from significant bodies of water.
Description: SCP-652 was discovered in northern Canada in the winter of ███. On ██/██ the Foundation received information that the isolated Inuit village of █████████ in the Nunavit was suffering an outbreak of an unknown and highly virulent skin disease. While some agents worked to keep the Canadian government uninformed, others tested the villagers, discovering they were infected with the bacterium now labeled SCP-652. Containment and quarantine efforts began immediately, as the disease was discovered to infect a wide variety of species as well as humans, and to spread very rapidly. Some villagers, disbelieving the cover story that the Foundation agents were Health Canada representatives, tried to escape containment, but all were successfully detained, except for [EXPUNGED] who were terminated while attempting armed resistance. However, the disease's outbreak ended with the coming of the first sustained warmth on [DATE EXPUNGED], 1994, with relatively few deaths. Fortunately, the village was inland; however, all streams within 50 miles were poisoned with a variety of agents to insure death of all fish or amphibians which might be capable of carrying the disease.
SCP-652 is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium (provisionally named Bacillus polaris) which, uniquely for a disease-causing organism, cannot reproduce at environmental temperatures greater than 25 degrees Celsius.
In humans, it causes an acute dermatolytic condition, limited to the skin and easily treated by warmth. In untreated cases in cold environments, 5-10% of total cases end in death, and most others leave permanent disfigurement. The disease begins with a rash due to immune system response. There is no fever. If heat is applied, or the patient remains in a warm area, this is the extent of the disease, which ends in 2 to 3 days with no permanent effects. If not, it progresses fairly rapidly (24-36 hours) to large boils and very loose, elastic skin. This condition is highly painful, as the boils are sensitive to heat and sunlight as well as touch, and will cause permanent effects: prematurely wrinkled skin and possibly disfiguring scarring from the boils. In severe, life-threatening cases (10-15%), the boils continue to increase in size (up to the size of an orange in certain cases), run together, and burst as the disease enters its critical stage. The patient's body temperature also drops by up to 3 degrees. If the patient will survive, the infection ceases to progress at this stage, leaving the patient permanently scarred but, barring secondary infections, alive. In many critical cases, though (40-60% of those who reach this critical stage), the skin begins to dissolve completely, leading to agonizing pain, █████████, and death.
While treatment is trivial in humans (except in very poor regions in cold climates), this disease poses a great ecological risk. Provisionally, from the few known cases, in any vertebrate with a core body temperature under 32 degrees (excluding █████████), the infection is nearly 100% lethal within three to four days. Thus, prevention of SCP-652 release into bodies of water is imperative in the highest degree, to prevent extreme ecological catastrophe.
The bacterium's ability to lower its victims' body temperature is as yet unexplained. Research has shown that it does not operate through simple chemical reactions; the bacterium is able to use heat energy directly, even if the thing from which it is drawing heat is colder than the bacterium. This appears to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics as currently understood, but the ability is limited: excessive heat absorption will cause the bacterium to overheat and die (it cannot reproduce above 25 C, and dies at 34 C).
Further research on experimental fish and amphibians is imperative to confirm the above data and achieve greater understanding of animal-to-animal transmission. Additionally, isolating the gene or genes causing heat susceptibility, and any possible heat absorption, in this bacterium is highly desirable.