Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Biological Weapons (WMD’s)

Previously I went into depth in talking about chemical weapons and the science and effect they have on the general human community. Today I will talk about biological weapons yet another form of WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction).

A biological weapon as described by Federation of American Scientists (FAS), is a weapon used to deliver toxins and microorganisms, such as a virus or bacteria, so as to deliver deliberate harm to someone. (“Biosecurity And Biodefense Resource – Federation Of American Scientists”) Unlike other types of WMD’s, biological weapons releasing agent isn’t as quickly detectable. There are systems set up to find and detect biological agents used in the weapon itself but there is a delay between first obtaining the agent to classifying it. Another key difference between biological weapons and other WMD’s is the effects of it on a person aren’t as immediate as the others. The effects of a chemical weapon can be seen as soon as the weapon is used, whereas a biological weapon needs a period known as an incubation period, this is referred to as the period between exposure to an bio agent and the presence of the first symptoms.

The production of a biological weapon can be broken up into several steps. Firstly the biological agent in which will be used in the weapon needs to be selected and acquired, but if the agent happens to be a toxin the production method needs to be determined. Next after developing sufficient amounts of the agent various range and modification procedures are used to alter certain traits and characteristics of the microorganism. And finally the weapon is primed and ready for delivery.

A good example of a biological weapon noted in the 21st century is the Anthrax pandemic in America in 2001. Letters containing white powder turned up US senate offices and major media outlets. It was discovered that this white powder is the spores of the deadly bacteria Bacillus anthracis. The attack infected 22 people and killed 5. The person who was on the FBI radar for this attack was anthrax scientist Bruce Ivans (he committed suicide before the case was closed). Anthrax is transmitted through skin contact with the spores, the most deadly form of contact with anthrax is inhalation. When inhaled the spores travel to the lungs then the immune system, which then will carry them to the lymph nodes that are located all over the body. Once in the lymph nodes the spores then multiply and release the toxins that can cause fever, repertory problems and more that you can read about here (Symptoms of Anthrax).

bio_weapons_anthrax

The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the first joint disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, entered into force on 26 March 1975. The BWC is a way in which the world powers are trying to combat not only bio weapons but also all forms of WMD’s. Parties within the BWC are to provide an annual report on national biological defense research and development programs just to name one aspect.

Stay tuned for my next and final blog will be on IED’s and how they fit into this vast category of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

References:

  • “UNODA – The Biological Weapons Convention”. United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
  • “Biological Warfare And Bioterrorism”. BMJ 324.7338 (2002): 647b-647. Web.
  • “American Anthrax Outbreak Of 2001”. Department of Epidemiology. N.p., 2008. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
  • “Biosecurity And Biodefense Resource – Federation Of American Scientists”. Federation of American Scientists. N.p., 2007. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
  • “Symptoms| Anthrax | CDC”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
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One comment on “Biological Weapons (WMD’s)

  1. bimalig
    April 27, 2016

    The whole time I was reading this blog I kept on thinking about Dan Brown’s book- Inferno and how easily a chemical bomb could be stopped compared to a biological weapon that can not only effect one country but the whole world in a matter of days if not contained.
    It also reminds me of a game called Plague Inc. which allows you to create your own disease and see how fast you can infect the whole world with it.
    Learning about how it effects our bodies under the skin is quite scary and how easily someone with proper knowledge could cause mass devastation is unbelievable but having the protective steps in place such as the BWC as you’ve explained is relief in itself.
    I like how this lab journal (https://www.ll.mit.edu/publications/journal/pdf/vol12_no1/12_1detectbioagents.pdf ) uses a flow chart to explain the way biological weapons are detected maybe including something like that would make understanding the process easier. Overall this was a really intriguing read.

    Like

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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