Biological Warfare
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What is biological warfare? biological weapons agents
Up to date book on present day and future biological warfare.

Biological Weapons Defense

biological weapons characteristics

Biological Warfare Survival

anti agriculture biological weapons

Target cities in danger of with Biological Warfare attack

The Plague and Black Death in Biological Warfare The Plague Doctors



              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 agents

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.

 Biological weapons characteristics

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.

Anti agriculture biological weapons

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.

Read DNA Armageddon by going to our Dark Biology Book Store.

Biological Weapons Defense

Identification of biological weapons

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.

Which cities in the USA are at the greatest risk of a biological weapons attack.  Read this free and disturbing extract from DNA Armageddon here.

Defend yourself now from threat of modern day biological warfare; by reading DNA Armageddon by going to our Dark Biology Store


Biological Warfare Survival.

The Plague and Black Death in Biological Warfare


We suggest if you like this topic to read Twenty First Century Overman by visiting our Dark Biology store


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 

General on Bubonic Plague & the Black Death.    Signs and symptoms of Bubonic Plague.      Pathophysiology of Bubonic Plague.    Treatment of Bubonic plague       Laboratory Testing for Bubonic Plague

Pneumonic plague        Pathology and transmission       Symptoms        Prognosis and treatment     Present Day

 Occurrences of Pneumonic Plague.       The plague doctor

Bubonic plague 

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.

 Signs and symptoms

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:


General ill feeling (malaise)

High fever (39 °Celsius; 102 °Fahrenheit)

Muscle Cramps


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

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

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.

 Pathology and transmission

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:





Rapidly developing pneumonia with:

Shortness of breath

Chest pain


Bloody or watery sputum (saliva and discharge from respiratory passages).

Prognosis and treatment

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%.

Present Day Occurrences  of Pneumonic Plague.


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.

Plague in Biological warfare.

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.

Epidemiology of plague following use as a biological weapon.

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.

Present day incidents of suspected attempted attacks using .


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.

It was 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."

Larry Wayne Harris and William Job Leavitt American white supremacist  Bio Terrorists?

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

conspiring 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

anthrax vaccine.

Tip off

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

biological 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

official said. Agents responding to the tip seized unknown

materials and Petri dishes and "locked them up," the source

said. "We're not sure what the hell they got."

Harris on probation for buying bubonic


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

protect themselves

with 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

the 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

then-President George Bush. In 1995, he was arrested after

purchasing three vials of bubonic plague by mail from a

Maryland laboratory. That was not in and of itself a crime, but

Harris was convicted on two counts of mail fraud and one

of wire fraud for misrepresenting the purpose of the purchase,

a federal offense. At the time, Harris told prosecutors in

he was worried about the effects of "super germ-carrying rats"

coming from Iraq. Though still on probation for his 1995

conviction, he has permission to travel and gives speeches at

gun 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

because he had this stuff before," a source said.

Less is

known about Leavitt, 47. The FBI

affidavit says he is also a

microbiologist who owns clinics in

Logandale, Nevada, where

he 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


Separatist allegedly described New York


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

hundreds of thousands of deaths."

He told the group, according to the

affidavit, that "the Iraqis

would 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


at this point."

The Plague Doctors.

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.

Plague Doctors Costumes

(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.

This popular seventeenth century poem describes the plague doctor's costume.

As may be seen on picture here,
In Rome the doctors do appear,
When to their patients they are called,
In places by the plague appalled,
Their hats and cloaks, of fashion new,
Are made of oilcloth, dark of hue,
Their caps with glasses are designed,
Their bills with antidotes all lined,
That foulsome air may do no harm,
Nor cause the doctor man alarm,
The staff in hand must serve to show
Their noble trade where'er they go.

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.

Traditional treatment

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

anthrax spores.


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 lesion

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

expressing plasmid.

 Site cleanup

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

surfaces wet).

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.

Biological warfare

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.

Sverdlovsk incident

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

in 1992.

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.

Anthrax bioterrorism

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.

Decontaminating 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

postal envelope.