Biological warfare (BW), also known as germ warfare, is the use of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, other disease-causing biological agents, or the toxins produced by them as biological weapons (or bioweapons).
biological warfare is a military technique that can be used by nation-states or non-national groups. In the latter case, or if a nation-state uses it clandestinely, it may also be considered bioterrorism.
The creation and stockpiling of biological weapons ("offensive biological warfare") was outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), signed by over 100 countries. The BWC remains in force, and it prohibits storage, stockpiling, and usage of these weapons. The rationale behind the agreement is to avoid the devastating impact of a successful biological attack which could conceivably result in millions, possibly even billions of deaths and cause severe disruptions to societies and economies. Many countries currently pursue "defensive BW" research (defensive or protective applications) which are not prohibited by the BWC.
Previously as a tactical weapon, the main military problem with a biological warfare attack is that the effects could transmitted to unintended target populations, including neutral or even friendly forces. However as made clear in the book "DNA Armageddon" new techniques in biotechnology allow for the targeting of ethnic groups and even individuals right down to tailor made germs for assassinations of world leaders. Additionally even without those technologies the advent of apocalyptic terrorist groups such as AL Quaida means that containment of transmission would not be an issue.
The consensus among military analysts is that, except in the context of bioterrorism, biological warfare is of little military use; however this is incorrect and extremely naive which only highlights the lack of present day up to date knowledge on new possibilities in biological warfare. These military analysts have lost touch with the latest advances in biotechnology allowing for targeted use of old and even entirely new germs. By entirely new I mean entirely new to nature and totally man made. Most military generals and law enforcement personnel either dismiss this idea through ignorance or for fear of causing mass panic".
Biological warfare is the deliberate use of disease and natural poisons to incapacitate humans. It employs pathogens as weapons. Pathogens are the micro-organism, whether bacterial, viral or protozoic, that cause disease. There are four kinds of biological warfare agents: bacteria, viruses, protists, and fungi. Biological weapons are distinguished by being living organisms, that reproduce within their host victims, who then become contagious with a deadly, if weakening, multiplier effect. Toxins in contrast do not reproduce in the victim and need only the briefest of incubation periods; they kill within a few hours.
The biological agents used in biological weapons can often be manufactured quickly and easily. The primary difficulty is not the production of the biological agent but delivery in an effective form to a vulnerable target.
Production of biological weapons requires starter material in other words a small amount of that agent to begin with. If a biological weapons scientist does not have any starter material how can they grow more of the germ or deadly organism? Again this has become incredibly easy especially with the advent of the Internet Age. Indeed as you can see in "DNA Armageddon" the ease to which for example Anthrax can be acquired is striking. Anthrax can indeed be made easily by most undergraduate science majors. Anthrax is considered an effective agent for several reasons. First, it forms hardy spores, perfect for dispersal aerosols. Second, pneumonic (lung) infections of anthrax usually do not cause secondary infections in other people. Thus, the effect of the agent is usually confined to the target. A pneumonic anthrax infection starts with ordinary "cold" symptoms and quickly becomes lethal, with a fatality rate that is 90% or higher. Finally, friendly personnel can be protected with suitable antibiotics.
Other diseases considered possible for weaponization, or known to be already weaponised include , Ebola, Marburg virus, plague , cholera , tularemia, brucellosis, Q fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Coccidioides mycosis , Glanders, Melioidosis, Shigella, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus , Psittacosis, yellow fever , Japanese B encephalitis , Rift Valley fever, and smallpox. Naturally-occurring toxins that can be used as weapons include Ricin, SEB, botulism toxin, saxitoxin, and many mycotoxins. The organisms causing these diseases are known as select agents. In the United States, their possession, use, and transfer are regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Select Agent Program. As you can see these in DNA Armageddon these control measure are almost useless.
The United States developed an anti-crop capability during the Cold War that used plant diseases (bioherbicides, or mycoherbicides) for destroying enemy agriculture. It was believed that destruction of enemy agriculture on a strategic scale could thwart Sino-Soviet aggression in a general war. Diseases such as wheat blast and rice blast were weaponised in aerial spray tanks and cluster bombs for delivery to enemy water sheds in agricultural regions to initiate epiphytotics (epidemics among plants). When the United States renounced its offensive biological warfare program in 1969 and 1970, the vast majority of its biological arsenal was composed of these plant diseases.
In 1980s Soviet Ministry of Agriculture had successfully developed variants of foot-and-mouth disease and rinderpest against cows, African swine fever for pigs, and psittacosis to kill chicken. These agents were prepared to spray them down from tanks attached to airplanes over hundreds of miles. The secret program was code-named "Ecology".
Attacking animals is another area of biological warfare intended to eliminate animal resources for transportation and food. In the First World War German agents were arrested attempting to inoculate draft animals with anthrax, and they were believed to be responsible for outbreaks of Glanders in horses and mules. The British tainted small feed cakes with anthrax in the Second World War as a potential means of attacking German cattle for food denial, but never employed the weapon. In the 1950s the United States had a field trial with hog cholera. During the Mau Mau Uprising in 1952, the poisonous latex of the African milk bush was used to kill cattle.
However the above mentioned anti agriculture weapons are old school as a far more deadly threat has emerged. This is the use of GMO food technology as a biological weapon. For example the rice or wheat crop could have toxin genes inserted. These toxin genes would spread quickly from plant to plant meaning the total collapse of world food reserved in a short space of time. An apocalyptic scenario would soon emerge that the author does not need to spell out. Additionally pollen bio weapons could be developed without much difficulty. I am sure the reader could imagine the devastation that toxic pollen could cause to entire nations and possibility on the world scale. Toxic pollen clouds drifting over hundreds of square miles of space! As you will read in "DNA Armageddon" this is indeed another possibility.
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The goal of biological weapons defense is to integrate the sustained efforts of the national and homeland security, medical, public health, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement communities. Health care providers and public health officers are among the first lines of defense. In some countries private, local, and provincial (state) capabilities are being augmented by and coordinated with federal assets, to provide layered defenses against biological weapons attacks. During the first Gulf War the United Nations activated a biological and chemical response team, Task Force Scorpio, to respond to any potential use of weapons of mass destruction on civilians.
The traditional approach toward protecting agriculture, food, and water: focusing on the natural or unintentional introduction of a disease is being strengthened by focused efforts to address current and anticipated future biological weapons threats that may be deliberate, multiple, and repetitive.
The growing threat of biological warfare agents and bioterrorism has led to the development of specific field tools that perform on-the-spot analysis and identification of encountered suspect materials. One such technology, being developed by researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), employs a "sandwich immunoassay", in which fluorescent dye-labeled antibodies aimed at specific pathogens are attached to silver and gold nanowires.
In the Netherlands, the company TNO has designed Bioaerosol Single Particle Recognition eQuipment (BiosparQ). This system would be implemented into the national response plan for biological weapons attacks in the Netherlands
Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel are developing a different device called the BioPen, essentially a "Lab-in-a-Pen", which can detect known biological agents in under 20 minutes using an adaptation of the ELISA, a similar widely employed immunological technique, that in this case incorporates fiber optics.
However the methods listed above are only effective for known biological agents and as can be read in DNA Armageddon this means the limitations of such methods are becoming increasingly acute.
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Plague in Biological warfare. Epidemiologist of plague following use as a biological weapon. Present day incidents of suspected attempted attacks using plague Larry Wayne Harris and Levitt American white supremacist bio terrorists? Al-Quaida
Bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease, circulating mainly among small rodents and their fleas, and is one of three types of infections caused by Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), which belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae. Without treatment, the bubonic plague kills about two out of three infected humans within 4 days.
The term bubonic plague is derived from the Greek word bubo, meaning "swollen gland." Swollen lymph nodes (buboes) especially occur in the armpit and groin in persons suffering from bubonic plague. Bubonic plague was often used synonymously for plague, but it does in fact refer specifically to an infection that enters through the skin and travels through the lymphatics, as is often seen in flea-borne infections. The first recorded epidemic ravaged the Byzantine Empire during the sixth century, and was named the Plague of Justinian after emperor Justitinian.
Bubonic plague — along with the septicemic plague and the pneumonic plague is generally believed to be the cause of the Black Death that swept through Europe in the 14th century and killed an estimated 75 million people, or 30-60% of the European population. Because the plague killed so many of the working population, wages rose and some historians have seen this as a turning point in European economic development. Justinian I, who was infected but survived through extensive treatment. The Black Death originated in or near China and spread by way of the Silk Road or by ship. Carried by the fleas on rats, it spread along trade routes and reached the Crimea in 1347.
The most famous symptom of bubonic plague is painful, swollen lymph glands, called buboes. These are commonly found in the armpits, groin or neck. Due to its bite-based form of infection, the bubonic plague is often the first step of a progressive series of illnesses. Bubonic plague symptoms appear suddenly, usually 2–5 days after exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms include:Chills
General ill feeling (malaise)
High fever (39 °Celsius; 102 °Fahrenheit)
Smooth, painful lymph gland swelling called a bubo, commonly found in the groin, but may occur in the armpits or neck, most often at the site of the initial infection (bite or scratch)
Pain may occur in the area before the swelling appears
Skin color changes to a pink hue in some extreme cases
Bleeding out of the cochlea will begin after 12 hours of infection.
Other symptoms include heavy breathing, continuous blood vomiting, aching limbs, coughing, and extreme pain. The pain is usually caused by the decay or decomposure of the skin while the person is still alive. Additional symptoms include extreme fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, lenticulae (black dots scattered throughout the body), delirium and coma.
Two other types of Y. pestis plague are pneumonic and septicemic. Pneumonic plague, unlike the bubonic or septicemic, induces coughing and is very infectious, allowing to it be spread person-to-person.
Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system, usually resulting from the bite of an infected flea, Xenopsylla cheopis (the rat flea). The fleas are often found on rodents such as rats and mice, and seek out other prey when their rodent hosts die. The bacteria form aggregates in the gut of infected fleas and this results in the flea regurgitating ingested blood, which is now infected, into the bite site of a rodent or human host. Once established, bacteria rapidly spread to the lymph nodes and multiply. Y. pestis bacilli can resist phagocytosis and even reproduce inside phagocytes and kill them. As the disease progresses, the lymph nodes can hemorrhage and become swollen and necrotic. Bubonic plague can progress to lethal septicemic plague in some cases. The plague is also known to spread to the lungs and become the disease known as the pneumonic plague. This form of the disease is highly communicable as the bacteria can be transmitted in droplets emitted when coughing or sneezing, as well as physical contact with victims of the plague or flea-bearing rodents that carry the plague.
Several classes of antibiotics are effective in treating bubonic plague. These include aminoglycosides such as streptomycin and gentamicin, tetracyclines (especially doxycycline), and the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin. Mortality associated with treated cases of bubonic plague is about 1-15%, compared to a mortality rate of 50-90% in untreated cases.
People potentially infected with the plague need immediate treatment and should be given antibiotics within 24 hours of the first symptoms to prevent death. Other treatments include oxygen, intravenous fluids, and respiratory support. People who have had contact with anyone infected by pneumonic plague are given prophylactic antibiotics.
Laboratory testing is required, in order to diagnose and confirm plague. Ideally, confirmation is through the identification of Y. pestis culture from a patient sample. Confirmation of infection can be done by examining serum taken during the early and late stages of infection. To quickly screen for the Y. pestis antigen in patients, rapid dipstick tests have been developed for field use.
Pneumonic plague, a severe type of lung infection, is one of three main forms of plague, all of which are caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is more virulent and rare than bubonic plague. The difference between the versions of plague is simply the location of the infection in the body; the bubonic plague is an infection of the lymphatic system, the pneumonic plague is an infection of the respiratory system, and the septicemic plague is an infection in the blood stream.
Typically, pneumonic form is due to a secondary spread from advanced infection of an initial bubonic form. Primary pneumonic plague results from inhalation of fine infective droplets and can be transmitted from human to human without involvement of fleas or animals. Untreated pneumonic plague has a very high fatality rate.
Since 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported six plague outbreaks, though some may go unreported because they often happen in remote areas. Between 1998 and 2009, nearly 24,000 cases have been reported, including about 2,000 deaths, in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe. 98% of the world's cases occur in Africa.
Pneumonic plague can be caused in two ways: primary, which results from the inhalation of aerosolised plague bacteria, or secondary, when septicemic plague spreads into lung tissue from the bloodstream. Pneumonic plague is not exclusively vector-borne like bubonic plague; instead it can be spread from person to person. There have been cases of pneumonic plague resulting from the dissection or handling of contaminated animal tissue. This is one type of the formerly known Black Death. It could kill 90%–95% of a population if the victims coughed and passed on the bacteria.
The most apparent symptom of pneumonic plague is coughing, often with hemoptysis (coughing up blood). With pneumonic plague, the first signs of illness are fever, headache, weakness, and rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and sometimes bloody or watery sputum. The pneumonia progresses for two to four days and may cause respiratory failure and shock. Patients will die without early treatment, some within 36 hours.
Initial pneumonic plague symptoms can often include:Fever
Rapidly developing pneumonia with:Shortness of breath
Bloody or watery sputum (saliva and discharge from respiratory passages).
Pneumonic plague is a very aggressive infection requiring early treatment. Antibiotics must be given within 24 hours of first symptoms to reduce the risk of death,. Streptomycin, gentamicin, tetracyclines, and chloramphenicol are all effective against pneumonic plague.
Antibiotic treatment for 7 days will protect people who have had direct, close contact with infected patients. Wearing a close-fitting surgical mask also protects against infection.
The mortality rate from untreated pneumonic plague approaches 100%.
The People's Republic of China has eradicated the pneumonic plague from most parts of the country, but still reports occasional cases in remote Western areas where the disease is carried by rats and the marmots that live across the Himalayan plateau. Outbreaks can be caused when a person eats an infected marmot or comes into contact with fleas carried by rats. A 2006 WHO report from an international meeting on plague cited a Chinese government disease expert as saying that most cases of the plague in China's northwest occur when hunters are contaminated while skinning infected animals. The expert said at the time that due to the region's remoteness, the disease killed more than half the infected people. The report also said that since the 1990s, there was a rise in plague cases in humans—from fewer than 10 in the 1980s to nearly 100 cases in 1996 and 254 in 2000. Official statistics posted on the Chinese Health Ministry's Web site showed no cases of plague in 2007 and 2008.n September 2008, two persons in east Tibet died of pneumonic plague.
A recent outbreak of the disease in China began in August 2009 in Ziketan Town located in Qinghai Province. The town was sealed off and several people died as a result of the disease. According to spokesperson Vivian Tan of the WHO office in Beijing, "In cases like this [in August 2009], we encourage the authorities to identify cases, to investigate any suspicious symptoms among close contacts, and to treat confirmed cases as soon as possible. So far, they have done exactly that. There have been sporadic cases reported around the country in the last few years so the authorities do have the experience to deal with this."
In September 2010, there were 5 reported cases of pneumonic plague in Tibet.
Peru's health minister says an outbreak of plague has killed a 14-year-old boy and infected at least 31 people in a northern coastal province.
Health Minister Oscar Ugarte says authorities are screening sugar and fish meal exports from Ascope province, located about 325 miles (520 km) northwest of Lima. Popular Chicama beach isn't far away.
Ugarte says the boy, who had Down syndrome, died of bubonic plague July 26, 2010.
He said August 1 that most of the infections are bubonic plague, with four cases of pneumonic plague. The former is transmitted by flea bites, the latter by airborne contagion. The disease is curable if treated early with antibiotics.
The first recorded plague outbreak in Peru was in 1903. The last, in 1994, killed 35 people.
Recent notable cases
On November 2, 2007, wildlife biologist Eric York died of pneumonic plague in Grand Canyon National Park. York was exposed to the bacteria while conducting a necropsy on a mountain lion carcass.
Some of the earliest instances of biological warfare were said to have been product of the plague, as armies of the 14th century were recorded catapulting diseased corpses over the walls of towns and villages in order to spread the pestilence.
Later, plague was used during the Second Sino-Japanese War as a bacteriological weapon by the Imperial Japanese Army. These weapons were provided by Shirō Ishii's units and used in experiments on humans before being used on the field. For example, in 1940, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service bombed Ningbo with fleas carrying the bubonic plague. During the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials, the accused, such as Major General Kiyashi Kawashima, testified that, in 1941, some 40 members of Unit 731 air-dropped plague-contaminated fleas on Changde. These operations caused epidemic plague outbreaks.
The Epidemiology of plague following its use as a biological weapon would differ substantially from that of naturally occurring infection. Intentional dissemination of plague would most probably occur via an aerosol of Y pestis, a mechanism that has been shown to produce disease in nonhuman primates. A pneumonic plague outbreak would result with symptoms initially resembling those of other severe respiratory illnesses. The size of the outbreak would depend on factors including the quantity of biological agent used, characteristics of the strain, environmental conditions, and methods of aerosolization. Symptoms would begin to occur 1 to 6 days following exposure, and people would die quickly following onset of symptoms. Indications that plague had been artificially disseminated would be the occurrence of cases in locations not known to have enzootic infection, in persons without known risk factors, and in the absence of prior rodent deaths.
It was reported in 2006 that an al-Quaida cell killed by the Black Death may have been developing biological weapons when it was infected and all the operatives succumbed to the infection. It was initially believed that they could have caught the disease through fleas on rats attracted by poor living conditions in their forest hideout. But there are now claims the cell was developing the disease as a weapon to use against western cities. Some experts said that the group was developing chemical and biological weapons. Dr Igor Khrupinov, a biological weapons expert at Georgia University, told The Sun: "Al-Quaida is known to experiment with biological weapons. And this group has direct communication with other cells around the world."Contagious diseases, like Ebola and anthrax, occur in northern Africa. It makes sense that people are trying to use them against Western governments." Dr Khrupinov, who was once a weapons adviser to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, added: "Instead of using bombs, people with infectious diseases could be walking through cities."
Post graduate terrorists.
reported last year that up to 100 potential terrorists had attempted to become
postgraduate students in Britain in an attempt to use laboratories. Ian Kearns,
from the Institute for Public Policy Research, told the newspaper: "The
biological weapons threat is not going away. We're not ready for it."
The FBI arrested two men in 1998,
including a self-professed
white separatist, on charges of
developing and stockpiling a
biological agent -- suspected of being
deadly anthrax -- and
to use it as a weapon.
The FBI announced the arrests of Larry
Wayne Harris and
William Job Leavitt Jr. at a news conference Thursday. The
men were taken into custody Wednesday evening and were
being held at the Clark County Detention Center in Las
"These individuals posed a potential chemical and biological threat to our community," said FBI Special Agent Bobby Siller.
"It was suspected that these individuals were in possession of
a dangerous biological chemical, anthrax." However, Leavitt's
lawyer, Lamond Mills, said that what the FBI actually seized
was a substance the two men hoped to test and market as an
The FBI was tipped off to Harris' alleged activities by a man in
Vegas who said Harris had told him of his ability to make
agents, a top law enforcement source told CNN.
The man apparently went with Harris to a medical office
outside Las Vegas to observe Harris' makeshift laboratory, an
materials and Petri dishes and "locked them up," the source
"We're not sure what the hell they got."
Harris, 46, a native of West Virginia
who now lives in
Lancaster, Ohio, has a microbiology
degree from Ohio State
University. He has written extensively
on the dangers of
biological warfare and how people can
massive doses of antibiotics.
Harris has described
himself as a white separatist. He once
the rank of
lieutenant colonel in the far-right white
separatist group Aryan
Nations, and he has also told reporters
that he is a follower of
Christian Identity movement.
During the 1980s, Harris
was questioned about his involvement with the Aryan Nations
by the Secret Service in advance of a visit to Ohio State by
purchasing three vials of bubonic plague by mail from a
Harris was convicted on two counts of mail fraud and one
of wire fraud for misrepresenting the purpose of the purchase,
he was worried about the effects of "super germ-carrying rats"
conviction, he has permission to travel and gives speeches at
shows about biological warfare.
A behavior science expert who looked
at Harris for the FBI
after his previous arrest advised agents "
to take him seriously
he had this stuff before," a source said.
known about Leavitt, 47. The FBI
affidavit says he is also a
microbiologist who owns clinics in
Logandale, Nevada, where
lives, and Frankfurt, Germany.
"My son is the most caring person you would ever find,"
his mother, Betty Leavitt. Describing
her son as a very
Mormon, she said he "prays every
time" there is
of a world conflict and is "extremely
concerned about germ
According to an affidavit filed with his
arrest warrant, Harris
told a group last summer of a 1995
plan to "place a 'globe' of
bubonic plague toxins in a New York
City subway station,
where it would be broken by a passing
subway train, causing
of thousands of deaths."
He told the group, according to the
affidavit, that "the Iraqis
be blamed for that event."
However, Siller said that there is as of
yet no indication as to
"what the target might have been or even if there was a
Fourteenth century plague doctors who wore a bird-like mask were referred to as "beak doctors". Straps held the beak in front of the doctor's nose. The mask had glass openings for the eyes and a curved beak was shaped like a bird's. The mask had two small nose holes and was a type of respirator. The mask they wore had a protruded beak which contained aromatic items. . The beak could hold dried flowers (including roses and carnations), herbs (including mint), spices, camphor or a vinegar sponge. The purpose of the mask was to keep away bad smells, which were thought to be the principal cause of the disease in the miasma theory of infection, before it was disproved by germ theory. Doctors believed the herbs would counter the "evil" smells of the plague and prevent them from becoming infected.
The beak doctor costume worn by the plague doctors had a wide brimmed leather hood to indicate their profession. They used wooden canes to point out areas needing attention and to examine the patients without touching them. The canes were also used to keep people away, to remove clothing from plague victims without having to touch them, and to take a patient's pulse.
(Top left, Paulus Furst’s 1656 engraving of Dr. Schnabel ("Beak") of Rome wearing protective clothing typical of the plague doctors of Rome at the time. Top middle Plague Doctor costume 1720. Top right, an 1841 version of the frontispiece to Jean-Jacques Manget’s Traité de la peste (1721),used to illustrate an article in the Saturday, June 5, 1841 issue of The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction on the 1637–37 plague in Nijmegen. Bottom left, Plague Doctor (Medicus in Pestilentia) from Thomas Bartholin’s Historiae anatomicae of 1661. (Perhaps copied from Gerhart Altzenbach’s 1656 image. Bottom Middle, Johann Melchior Füssli, engraving, c. 1721, of a plague doctor of Marseilles. His nose-case is filled with smoking material to keep off the plague. Bottom right, a beaked Venetian carnival mask with the inscription Medico della Peste (‘Plague doctor’) beneath the right eye.)
Charles de Lorme adopted in 1619 the idea of a full head-to-toe protective garment, modeled after a soldier's armour. This consisted of not only the bird-like mask, but of a long leather (Moroccan or Levantine)or waxed-canvas gown which was from the neck to the ankle. The over-clothing garment, as well as leggings, gloves, boots, and a hat, were made of waxed leather. The garment was impregnated with similar fragrant items as the beak mask.
The Genevese physician Jean-Jacques Manget, in his 1721 work Treatise on the Plague written just after the Great Plague of Marseille, describes the costume worn by plague doctors at Nijmegen in 1636-1637. The costume forms the frontispiece of Manget's 1721 work. The plague doctors of Nijmegen also wore beaked masks. Their robes, leggings, hats, and gloves were made of morocco leather.
This costume was also worn by plague doctors during the Plague of 1656, which killed 145,000 people in Rome and 300,000 in Naples. The overcoat was sometimes made of levant morocco. The costume terrified people because it was a sign of imminent death. Plague doctors wore these protective costumes per their agreements when they attended their plague patients.
Medieval doctors thought the plague was created by air corrupted by humid weather, decaying unburied bodies, and fumes produced by poor sanitation. The recommended treatment of the plague was a good diet, rest, and relocating to a non-infected environment so the individual could get access to clean air. This did help, but not for the reasons the doctors of the time thought. In actuality, because they recommended moving away from unsanitary conditions, people were, in effect, getting away from the rodents that harbored the fleas carrying the infection.
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Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the
bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease
are lethal, and it affects both humans and other animals.
Like many other members of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus
anthracis can form dormant endospores (often referred to
as "spores" for short, but not to be confused with fungal
spores) that are able to survive in harsh conditions for
decades or even centuries. Such spores can be found on
all continents, even Antarctica. When spores are inhaled,
ingested, or come into contact with a skin lesion on a host
they may reactivate and multiply rapidly.
Anthrax commonly infects wild and domesticated
herbivorous mammals that ingest or inhale the spores while grazing. Ingestion is thought to be the most
common route by which herbivores contract anthrax.
Carnivores living in the same environment may become
infected by consuming infected animals. Diseased animals
can spread anthrax to humans, either by direct contact
(e.g., inoculation of infected blood to broken skin) or by
consumption of a diseased animal's flesh.
Anthrax spores can be produced in vitro (in the lab) and
used as a biological weapon. Anthrax does not spread
directly from one infected animal or person to another; it
is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by
clothing or shoes. The body of an animal that had active
anthrax at the time of death can also be a source of
Exposure and mode of infection.
Occupational exposure to infected animals or their
products (such as skin, wool, and meat) is the usual
pathway of exposure for humans. Workers who are
exposed to dead animals and animal products are at
the highest risk, especially in countries where anthrax
is more common. Anthrax in livestock grazing on open
range where they mix with wild animals still occasionally
occurs in the United States and
elsewhere. Many workers who deal with wool and
animal hides are routinely exposed to low levels of
anthrax spores but most exposures are not sufficient
to develop anthrax infections. It is presumed that the
body's natural defenses can destroy low levels of
exposure. These people usually contract cutaneous
anthrax if they catch anything. Throughout history, the
most dangerous form of inhalational anthrax was
called Woolsorters' disease because it was an occupational
hazard for people who sorted wool.
Today this form of infection is extremely rare, as almost
no infected animals remain. The last fatal case
of natural inhalational anthrax in the United States
occurred in California in 1976, when a home weaver
died after working with infected wool imported from
Pakistan. The autopsy was done at UCLA hospital. To
minimize the chance of spreading the disease, the
deceased was transported to UCLA in a sealed plastic
body bag within a sealed metal container.
In November 2008, a drum maker in the United
Kingdom who worked with untreated animal skins
died from anthrax. In December 2009 an outbreak of
anthrax occurred amongst heroin addicts in Glasgow,
Scotland, resulting in ten deaths. The source of the
anthrax is believed to be dilution of the heroin with
bone meal in Afghanistan. Also during December
2009, The New Hampshire Department of Health and
Human Services confirmed a case of gastrointestinal
anthrax in an adult female. The CDC (Center for
Disease Control) investigated the source and the pox
Anthrax can enter the human body through the
intestines (ingestion), lungs (inhalation), or skin
(cutaneous) and causes distinct clinical symptoms
based on its site of entry. In general, an infected
human will be quarantined. However, anthrax does
not usually spread from an infected human to a non-
infected human. But, if the disease is fatal to the
person's body, its mass of anthrax bacilli becomes a
potential source of infection to others and special
precautions should be used to prevent further
contamination. Inhalational anthrax, if left untreated
until obvious symptoms occur, may be fatal.
Anthrax can be contracted in laboratory accidents or by
handling infected animals or their wool or hides. It
has also been used in biological warfare agents and
by terrorists to intentionally infect as exemplified by
the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Signs and symptoms
Pulmonary (in other words airborne infection)
Respiratory infection in humans initially presents with
cold or flu-like symptoms for several days, followed by
severe (and often fatal) respiratory collapse. Historical
mortality was 92%, but, when treated early (seen in
the 2001 anthrax attacks), observed mortality was
[Distinguishing pulmonary anthrax from more
common causes of respiratory illness is essential to
avoiding delays in diagnosis and thereby improving
outcomes. An algorithm for this purpose has been
developed. Illness progressing to the fulminant phase has
a 97% mortality regardless of treatment.
A lethal infection is reported to result from inhalation
of about 10,000–20,000 spores, though this dose
varies among host species. As with all diseases, it is
presumed that there is a wide variation to
susceptibility with evidence that some people may die
from much lower exposures; there is little
documented evidence to verify the exact or average
number of spores needed for infection. Inhalational
anthrax is also known as Woolsorters' or Ragpickers'
disease as these professions were more susceptible to
the disease due to their exposure to infected animal
Other practices associated with exposure
include the slicing up of animal horns for the
manufacture of buttons, the handling of hair bristles
used for the manufacturing of brushes, and the
handling of animal skins. Whether these animal skins
came from animals that died of the disease or from
animals that had simply laid on ground that had
spores on it is unknown. This mode of infection is the
type used weaponization in biological warfare..
Gastrointestinal (needs to be ingested)
Gastrointestinal infection in humans is most often
caused by eating anthrax-infected meat and is
characterized by serious gastrointestinal
difficulty, vomiting of blood, severe diarrhea, acute
inflammation of the intestinal tract, and loss of
appetite. Some lesions have been found in the
intestines and in the mouth and throat. After the
bacterium invades the bowel system, it spreads
through the bloodstream throughout the body, making
even more toxins on the way. Gastrointestinal
infections can be treated but usually result in fatality
rates of 25% to 60%, depending upon how soon
treatment commences. This form of anthrax is the
rarest form. In the United States, there is only one
official case reported in 1942 by the CDC.
Cutaneous (on the skin).
Anthrax skin lesion
Cutaneous (on the skin) anthrax infection in humans
shows up as a boil-like skin lesion that eventually
forms an ulcer with a black center (lesion). The black
lesion often shows up as a large,
painless necrotic ulcer (beginning as an irritating and
itchy skin lesion or blister that is dark and usually
concentrated as a black dot, somewhat resembling
bread mold) at the site of infection. In general,
cutaneous infections form within the site of spore
penetration between 2 and 5 days after exposure.
Unlike bruises or most other lesions, cutaneous
anthrax infections normally do not cause pain.
Cutaneous anthrax is typically caused when bacillus
anthracis spores enter through cuts on the skin. This
form of Anthrax is found most commonly when
humans handle infected animals and/or animal
products (e.g., the hide of an animal used to make
Cutaneous anthrax is rarely fatal if treated, because
the infection area is limited to the skin, preventing the
Lethal Factor, Edema Factor, and Protective Antigen
from entering and destroying a vital organ. Without
treatment about 20% of cutaneous skin infection
cases progress to toxemia and death.
Other than Gram stain of specimens, there are no
specific direct identification techniques for i
dentification of Bacillus species in clinical material.
These organisms are Gram-positive but with age can
be Gram-variable to Gram-negative. A specific feature
of Bacillus species that makes it unique from other
aerobic microorganisms is its ability to produce
spores. Although spores are not always evident on a
Gram stain of this organism, the presence of spores
confirms that the organism is of the genus Bacillus.
All Bacillus species grow well on 5% Sheep blood agar and
other routine culture media. PLET
(polymyxin-lysozyme-EDTA-thallous acetate) can be used
to isolate B.anthracis from contaminated specimens, and
bicarbonate agar is used as an identification method to
induce capsule formation. Bacillus sp. will usually grow
within 24 hours of incubation at 35 degrees C, in ambient
air (room temperature) or in 5% CO2. If bicarbonate agar
is used for identification then the media must be
incubated in 5% CO2. This ability to grow well makes it a
great threat for the possible use as a biological warfare
An anthrax vaccine (BioThrax or Anthrax Vaccine
Adsorbed) licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) and produced from one non-virulent
strain of the anthrax bacterium was formerly administered
in a six-dose primary series at 0, 2, 4 weeks and 6, 12, 18
months, with annual boosters to maintain immunity. On
December 11, 2008, the FDA approved omitting the week
2 dose, resulting in the currently recommended five-dose
series. Unlike NATOcountries, the Soviets developed and
used a live spore anthrax vaccine, known as the STI vaccine, produced in Tbilisi, Georgia. Its serious side-effects restrict use to healthy adults.
Anthrax cannot be spread directly from person to person,
but a peoples clothing and body may be contaminated with
spores. Effective decontamination of people can be
accomplished by a thorough wash-down
withantimicrobial effective soap and water. Waste water should be treated with bleach or other anti-microbial
agent. Effective decontamination of articles can be
accomplished by boiling contaminated articles in water for
30 minutes or longer. Chlorine bleach is ineffective in
destroying spores and vegetative cells on surfaces, though
formaldehyde is effective. Burning clothing is very
effective in destroying spores. After decontamination,
there is no need to immunize, treat or isolate contacts of
persons ill with anthrax unless they were also exposed to
the same source of infection.
Early antibiotic treatment of anthrax is essential—delay
significantly lessens chances for survival.
Treatment for anthrax infection and other bacterial
infections includes large doses of intravenous and
oral antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones like
or doxycycline, erythromycin, vancomycin or penicillin.
FDA-approved agents include ciprofloxacin,
doxycycline and penicillin.
In possible cases of inhalation anthrax, early antibiotic
prophylaxis treatment is crucial to prevent possible
In May 2009, Human Genome Sciences submitted
a Biologic License Application (BLA, permission to
market) for its new drug,raxibacumab (brand name
ABthrax) intended for emergency treatment of inhaled
anthrax. If death occurs from anthrax the body
should be isolated to prevent possible spread of
anthrax germs. Burial does not kill anthrax spores.
In recent years there have been many attempts to
develop new drugs against anthrax, but existing drugs
are effective if treatment is started soon enough.
Anthrax in bioterrorism and biological warfare.
The virulent Ames strain, which was used in the 2001
anthrax attacks in the United States, has received the
most news coverage of any anthrax outbreak. The
Ames strain contains two virulence plasmids, which
separately encode for a three-protein toxin,
called anthrax toxin, and a poly-glutamic acid capsule.
Nonetheless, the Vollum strain, developed but never
used as a biological weapon during the Second World
War, is much more dangerous. The Vollum (also i
ncorrectly referred to as Vellum) strain was isolated in
1935 from a cow in Oxfordshire, UK. This is the same
strain that was used during the Gruinard bioweapons
trials. A variation of Vollum known as "Vollum 1B" was
used during the 1960s in the US and UK bioweapon
programs. Vollum 1B is widely believe to have been i
solated from William A. Boyles, a 46-year-old
scientist at the U.S. Army Biological Warfare
Laboratories at Camp (later Fort) Detrick (precursor
to USAMRIID) who died in 1951 after being
infected with the Vollum strain. The Sterne strain,
named after the Trieste-born immunologist Max
Sterne, is an attenuated strain used as a vaccine, which
contains only the anthrax toxin virulence
plasmid and not the poly-glutamic acid capsule
Anthrax spores can survive for very long periods of
time in the environment after release. Methods for
cleaning anthrax-contaminated sites commonly use
oxidizing agents such as peroxides, ethylene oxide,
Sandia Foam, chlorine dioxide (used in the Hart
Senate Office Building), and liquid bleach products
containing sodium hypochlorite. These agents slowly
destroy bacterial spores. A bleach solution for treating
hard surfaces has been approved by the EPA.]Bleach
and vinegar must not be combined together directly,
as doing so could produce chlorine gas. Rather some
water must first be added to the bleach (e.g., two
cups water to one cup of bleach), then vinegar (e.g.,
one cup), and then the rest of the water (e.g., six
cups). The pH of the solution should be tested with a
paper test strip; and treated surfaces must remain in
contact with the bleach solution for 60 minutes
(repeated applications will be necessary to keep the
Chlorine dioxide has emerged as the preferred biocide
against anthrax-contaminated sites, having been
employed in the treatment of numerous government
buildings over the past decade. Its chief drawback is
the need for in situ processes to have the reactant on
To speed the process, trace amounts of a
non-toxic catalyst composed of iron and tetro-amido
macrocyclicligands are combined with sodium
carbonate and bicarbonate and converted into a
spray. The spray formula is applied to an infested
area and is followed by another spray
containing tert-Butyl hydroperoxide.
Using the catalyst method, a complete destruction of
all anthrax spores can be achieved in under 30
minutes. A standard catalyst-free spray destroys
fewer than half the spores in the same amount of
time. They can be heated, exposed to the harshest
chemicals, and they do not easily die.]
Cleanups at a Senate office building, several
contaminated postal facilities and other U.S.
government and private office buildings showed that
decontamination is possible, but it is time-consuming
and costly. Clearing the Senate office building of
anthrax spores cost $27 million, according to the
Government Accountability Office. Cleaning the
Brentwood postal facility outside Washington cost
$130 million and took 26 months. Since then newer
and less costly methods have been developed.
Clean up of anthrax-contaminated areas on ranches
and in the wild is much more problematic. Carcasses
may be burned, though it often takes up to three days
to burn a large carcass and this is not feasible in
areas with little wood. Carcasses may also be buried,
though the burying of large animals deeply enough to
prevent resurfacing of spores requires much
manpower and expensive tools. Carcasses have been
soaked in formaldehyde to kill spores, though this has
environmental contamination issues. Block burning of
vegetation in large areas enclosing an anthrax
outbreak has been tried; this, while environmentally
destructive, causes healthy animals to move away
from an area with carcasses in search of fresh graze
browse. Some wildlife workers have experimented
covering fresh anthrax carcasses with shade cloth
and heavy objects. This prevents some scavengers
from opening the carcasses, thus allowing the
putrefactive bacteria within the carcass to kill the
vegetative B. anthracis cells and preventing
sporulation. This method also has drawbacks, as
scavengers such as hyenas are capable of infiltrating
almost any exclosure. The occurrence of previously
dormant anthrax, stirred up from below the ground
surface by wind movement in a drought-stricken
region with depleted grazing and browsing, may be
seen as a form of natural culling and a first step in
rehabilitation of the area.
Anthrax was first tested as a biological warfare agent
by Unit 731 of the Japanese Kwantung Army
in Manchuria during the 1930s; some of this testing
involved intentional infection of prisoners of war,
thousands of whom died. Anthrax, designated at the time
as Agent N, was also investigated by the allies in the
1940s. Weaponised anthrax was part of the U.S. stockpile
prior to 1972, when the United States signed the
Biological Weapons Convention.
Anthrax spores can and have been used as a biological
warfare weapon. Its first modern incidence occurred when
Scandinavian freedom fighters ("the rebel groups")
supplied by the German General Staff used anthrax with
unknown results against the Imperial Russian Army in
Finland in 1916.There is a long history of
practical bioweapons research in this area. For example,
in 1942 British bioweapons trials severely
contaminated Gruinard Island in Scotland with anthrax
spores of the Vollum-14578 strain, making it a no-go area
until it was decontaminated in 1990.The Gruinard trials
involved testing the effectiveness of a submunition of an "
N-bomb"—a biological weapon. Additionally, five million "
cattle cakes" impregnated with anthrax were prepared and
stored at Porton Down for "Operation Vegetarian"—an
anti-livestock weapon intended for attacks on Germany by
the Royal Air Force. The infected cattle cakes were to be
dropped on Germany in 1944. However neither the cakes
nor the bomb was used; the cattle cakes were incinerated
in late 1945.
More recently, the Rhodesian government used anthrax
against cattle and humans in the period 1978–1979 during
its war with black nationalists.
American military and British Army personnel are routinely
vaccinated against anthrax prior to active service in places
where biological attacks are considered a threat.
The anthrax vaccine, produced by BioPort Corporation,
contains non-living bacteria, and is approximately 93%
effective in preventing infection.
Weaponised stocks of anthrax in the US were destroyed in
–72 after President Nixon ordered the dismantling of US
biowarfare programs in 1969 and the destruction of all
existing stockpiles of bioweapons.
The Soviet Union created and stored 100 to 200 tons of
anthrax spores at Kantubek on Vozrozhdeniya Island. They
were abandoned in 1992 and destroyed in 2002.
2 April 1979
Main article: Sverdlovsk anthrax leak
Despite signing the 1972 agreement to end bioweapon
production the government of the Soviet Union had an
active bioweapons program that included the
production of hundreds of tons of weapons-grade
anthrax after this period. On 2 April 1979, some of the
over one million people living in Sverdlovsk (now
called Ekaterinburg, Russia), about 850 miles east of
Moscow, were exposed to an accidental release of
anthrax from a biological weapons complex located near
there. At least 94 people were infected, of whom at least
68 died. One victim died four days after the release, ten
over an eight-day period at the peak of the deaths, and
the last six weeks later. Extensive cleanup, vaccinations
and medical interventions managed to save about 30 of
the victims. Extensive cover-ups and destruction of
records by the KGB continued from 1979 until Russian
President Boris Yeltsin admitted this anthrax accident in
1992. Jeanne Guillemin reported in 1999 that a combined
Russian and United States team investigated the accident
Nearly all of the night shift workers of a ceramics plant
directly across the street from the biological facility
(compound 19) became infected, and most died. Since
most were men, there were suspicions
by NATO governments that the Soviet Union had
developed a sex-specific weapon. The government blamed
the outbreak on the consumption of anthrax-tainted meat
and ordered the confiscation of all uninspected meat that
entered the city. They also ordered that all stray dogs be
shot and that people not have contact with sick animals.
There was also a voluntary evacuation and anthrax
vaccination program established for people from 18–55.
To support the cover-up story Soviet medical and legal
journals published articles about an outbreak in livestock
that caused GI anthrax in people having consumed
infected meat, and cutaneous anthrax in people having
come into contact with the animals. All medical and public
health records were confiscated by the KGB. In addition to
the medical problems that the outbreak caused, it also
prompted Western countries to be more suspicious of a
covert Soviet Bioweapons program and to increase their
surveillance of suspected sites. In 1986, the US
government was allowed to investigate the incident, and
concluded that the exposure was from aerosol anthrax
from a military weapons facility. In 1992, President Yeltsin
admitted that he was "absolutely certain" that "rumors"
about the Soviet Union violating the 1972 Bioweapons
Treaty were true. The Soviet Union, like the US and UK,
had agreed to submit information to the UN about their
bioweapons programs but omitted known facilities and
never acknowledged their weapons program.
In theory, anthrax spores can be cultivated with minimal
special equipment and a first-year
collegiate microbiological education, but in practice the
procedure is difficult and dangerous. To make large
amounts of an aerosol form of anthrax suitable for
biological warfare requires extensive practical knowledge,
training, and highly advanced equipment.
Concentrated anthrax spores were used for bioterrorism in
the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, delivered
by mailing postal letters containing the spores. The letters
were sent to several news media offices as well as to two
Democratic senators: Tom Daschle of South Dakota
and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. As a result, 22 were
infected and five died. Only a few grams of material were
used in these attacks and in August 2008 the US
Department of Justice announced they believed that Dr.
Bruce Ivins, a senior biodefense researcher employed by
the United States government, was responsible. These
events also spawned many anthrax hoaxes.
Due to these events, the U.S. Postal Service installed
biohazard detection systems at its major distribution
centers to actively scan for anthrax being transported
through the mail.
In response to the postal anthrax attacks and hoaxes
the US Postal Service sterilized some mail using a process
of gamma irradiation and treatment with a
proprietary enzyme formula supplied by Sipco Industries Ltd.
A scientific experiment performed by a high school
student, later published in The Journal of Medical
Toxicology, suggested that a domestic electric iron at its
hottest setting (at least 400 °F (204 °C)) used for at least
5 minutes should destroy all anthrax spores in a common