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Biological Weapons - Types, Current Usage Status and FutureBY: Deepti Narayan | Category: Healthcare | Submitted: 2014-01-30 05:42:04
Article Summary: "Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction - When the biosphere, structures either man-made or natural and the human race can be harmed by weapons that are either nuclear, radiological, biological or chemical- they are known as weapons of mass destruction..."
When the biosphere, structures either man-made or natural and the human race can be harmed by weapons that are either nuclear, radiological, biological or chemical- they are known as weapons of mass destruction .
If opponents can be easily incapacitated or killed using naturally occurring organisms or toxins that are very difficult to see, their potency being high, easily accessible and delivered smoothly in the opponent's camp- one is dealing with biological weapons of mass destruction  .
The following biological agents or weapons are classified according to their ease of dissemination, morbidity as well as mortality rates and the required diagnostics and surveillance methods.
a) Anthrax: The disease is highly infectious and is caused by Bacillus anthracis. The vaccine against anthrax is a potent weapon to fight the disease.
b) Smallpox: No treatment procedure exists for smallpox and hence, the lone option against the disease is to get vaccinated.
c) Botulism: The bacteria Clostridium botulinum, produces a toxin botulin that causes paralysis of the respiratory and musculoskeletal system. The most common sub-types of the disease are wound and infant botulism.
d) Plague: Humans suffer from plague when infected rodents bite them and are harbouring the bacteria Yersinia pestis.
e) Viral hemorrhagic fevers: Viruses belonging to varied families cause such fevers- Arenavirus, Flavivirus etc. Their severity can range from mild to severe to life-threatening.
The agents which fall into this category are Salmonella, Typhus and Ricin.
The agents in this category are Nipah virus and Hanta virus .
♦ STEPS TAKEN BY VARIOUS COUNTRIES TO STOP THE USE OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS:
♦ THE FUTURE:
In the years to come, synthetic biology would play a big role in the development of biological weapons e.g. combination of antimicrobial resistance genes and bacterial agents (Bacillus anthracis ineffective against ciprofloxacin). Such weapons could be used to incapacitate as well as kill people.
To counter such developments, following steps can be undertaken-
1. Consistent generation of diagnostic assays and vaccines, drugs etc for defense against biologic agents that have made their presence felt in the past. Such means of biological threats will be the ones causing the most destruction in the future.
2. Generation of host-specific medicines that would provide heightened immunity for a specific time period. This method would be for biological agents that are still to be singled out and named.
3. Special attention has to be paid to animals infected with the biological agents and existing near humans; the resulting diseases are termed as zoonosis. Hence, an in depth research has to be done to know more about microbes giving rise to wildlife diseases .
3. Frischknecht F. The history of biological warfare. Decontamination of warfare agents. 2008.
6. Casadevall A. The future of biological warfare. Microbial Biotechnology. 2012; 5(5): 584 - 587.
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