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Biological Warfare

Another BIOS project focuses on engineering new molecular pathways that result in pigment changes in bacteria upon exposure to a variety of bacterial and viral
pathogens. A separate project seeks to engineer biological circuits in the E. coli bacterium for sensing biological
agents based on the well-known lac and mal operons
as models.

FURTHER READING:
ELECTRONIC:

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense


Sciences Ofce <http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/biosci/
etc.htm.> (March 11, 2003).

SEE ALSO
Biodetectors
Bio-Engineered Tissue Constructs
Biological and Biomimetic Systems
Biological Warfare
Biological Warfare, Advanced Diagnostics
Bio-Optic Synthetic Systems (BOSS)
Biosensor Technologies

Biological Warfare
JUDYTH SASSOON

Biological warfare, as dened by the United Nations, is


the use of any living organism (e.g. bacterium, virus) or
an infective component (e.g., toxin), to cause disease
or death in humans, animals, or plants. In contrast to
bioterrorism, biological warfare is dened as the statesanctioned use of biological weapons on an opposing
military force or civilian population. Biological weapons
include pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and biological toxins. Of particular concern are genetically altered microorganisms, which are engineered to target a specic group
of people.

Early History of
Biological Warfare
Examples of the use of biological weapons exist in ancient
records. In the sixth century B.C., Assyrians poisoned enemy wells with ergot, a toxin derived from mold that
grows on rye. Other records of battles document the use
of diseased corpses to poison wells. In 1346, plagueinfected corpses and carcasses were catapulted into Kaffa,
a city in current day Crimea, by the Tartar army. The
epidemic that resulted may have eventually led to the
great Black Plague that aficted Europe. In 1710, the Russian army used a similar military strategy when it invaded
Sweden. The Spanish are reported to have contaminated
French wine with blood taken from people suffering from

Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security

Chemical/biological warfare agent R400 aerial bombs, destroyed by the


United Nations weapons inspectors after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, are
seen at the Muthanna State Establishment in Iraq in 1998. AP/WIDE
WORLD PHOTOS.

leprosy in the mid-1400s. In the seventeenth century, a


Polish general lled artillery shells with the saliva from
rabid dogs.
Smallpox was used as a biological weapon several
times during the colonization of the Americas. The Spanish explorer Pizarro gave blankets infested with the virus
to natives in South America in the fteenth century. Sir
Jeffery Amherst presented blankets contaminated with
the smallpox virus to native Americans during the French
and Indian war between 1754 and 1767. The epidemic that
followed resulted in the surrender of a strategic fort to the
English. A Southern doctor is reported to have sold clothing contaminated with smallpox to the Union Army during
the Civil War.

Modern History of
Biological Warfare
During the twentieth century, modern scientic methods
led to the development, renement, and stockpiling of
weapons of biological warfare by governments throughout the world. During World War I, Germany developed a
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Biological Warfare
biological warfare program based on the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and a strain of Pseudomonas known as
Burkholderia mallei, which causes glanders disease in
cattle. Dr. Anton Dilger, a German agent living in Washington D.C., reportedly grew anthrax and glanders bacteria in
his home and then inoculated thousands of horses and
cattle that were shipped to Allied troops in Europe. Many
of the animals perished and hundreds of the troops exposed to these animals were secondarily infected by the
diseases.
During World War II, prisoners in German Nazi concentration camps were infected with pathogens, such as
Hepatitis A, Plasmodia spp., and two types of Rickettsia
bacteria, during studies allegedly designed to develop
vaccines and antibacterial drugs. A large reservoir in
Bohemia was poisoned with sewage by the German
army in 1945.
Between 1918 and 1945, the Japanese government
conducted extensive biological weapon research at Unit
731 in occupied Manchuria, China. Prisoners of war were
infected with a variety of pathogens, including Neisseria
meningitis (meningitis), Bacillus anthracis (anthrax),
Shigella spp. (shigellosis), and Yersinia pestis (black
plague). Estimates are that over 3,000 prisoners died as a
result of infection by these biological pathogens or execution following such infections. In 1941, the Japanese released an estimated 150 million potentially plague-infected eas from aircraft over cities in China and Manchuria.
After these infectious agents were released, outbreaks of
plague occurred in many Chinese villages. In addition,
approximately 10,000 illnesses and 1,700 deaths occurred
among Japanese troops.
Driven by reports of Japanese and German programs
to develop biological weapons, the Allies embarked on
vigorous efforts to develop their own biological weapons
during World War II. Britain produced ve million anthrax
cakes at the UK Chemical and Biological Defense Establishment at Porton Down with the intent of dropping them
on Germany to infect the food chain. These weapons were
never used. British open-air testing of anthrax weapons in
1941 on Gruinard Island in Scotland rendered the island
inhabitable for ve decades.
The United States governments biological warfare
facility was headquartered at Fort Detrick in Maryland
beginning in 1942. Weapons were also tested and produced in Colorado, Arkansas and Utah. Many different
agents were studied including the bacteria that cause
anthrax, plague, botulism, Q fever, and staphylococcal
infections. Several viruses were also included in the research. The U.S. Army conducted a study in 19511952
called Operation Sea Spray to study wind currents that
might carry biological weapons. As part of the project
design, balloons were lled with Serratia marcescens
(then thought to be harmless, but easily identiable) and
exploded over San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, there
was a corresponding dramatic increase in reported pneumonia and urinary tract infections in the region.
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The former Soviet Union was implicated in several


incidents involving the development and release of biological agents. In 1979, an accidental release of a small
amount of anthrax spores occurred at a bioweapons facility near the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk. At least 77 people
were sickened and 66 died. All the affected people were
some 4 kilometers downwind of the facility. Sheep and
cattle up to 50 kilometers downwind became ill. Immediately following the incident, the Soviet government declared that the cause of the illnesses was contaminated
meat. However, in 1992 Russian President Boris Yeltsin
took responsibility, stating that the accident was the result
of military research at the microbiology facility. Between
1975 and 1983, Soviet forces allegedly used yellow rain
in military operations in Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan.
This substance, T2 toxin or trocothecene mycotoxin, is
derived from the Fusarium fungi and is extremely damaging to the intestinal tract. The Soviet government has
denied the use of T2 toxins, claiming that the yellow rain
was the result of defecating bees.
In 1991, the Iraqi government admitted the existence
of a biological weapons program within their military.
They built bombs containing the botulinum toxin, anthrax
and aatoxins. Iraqi scientists also studied the uses of
wheat cover smut, ricin and the toxins produced by Clostridium perfringens for biological weapons.

Diplomacy and biological warfare. The rst diplomatic effort


to limit biological warfare was the Geneva Protocol for the
Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous
or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. This treaty, ratied in 1925, prohibited the use of
biological weapons; however, it was not effective as Germany, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union all
had biological weapons programs up to the 1960s. More
than 140 countries, including the United States, signed the
Convention on the Prohibition of the Development Production, and the Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological)
and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, also called
the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1972, with
limited success. Although the United States formally
stopped biological weapons research in 1969 (by executive order of then President Richard M. Nixon), the Soviet
Union carried on biological weapons research until its
demise. Despite being a signator to the BWC, the Iraqi
government allegedly continued its buildup of biological
weapons into the twenty-rst century.
Following the Iraqi war, however, anticipated stockpiles of biological weapons were not immediately found.

FURTHER READING:
ELECTRONIC:

Rhode Island Department of Health: Bioterrorism Preparedness Program History of Biological Warfare and
Current Threat <http://www.healthri.org/environment/
biot/history.htm> (March 12, 2003).

Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security

Biological Weapons, Genetic Identification


Arizona Department of Health Services: Epidemiology
and Surveillance History of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism <http://www.hs.state.az.us/phs/edc/edrp/es/
bthistor2.htm> (March 12, 2003).

SEE ALSO
Anthrax Weaponization
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
Bioterrorism
Chemical Warfare
Infectious Disease, Threats to Security
Viral Biology
Weapons of Mass Destruction

blood cells provides a very quick indication of the presence of a biological threat. The second method involves
the development of a wearable, non-invasive diagnostic
device that detects a broad-spectrum of biological and
chemical agents.

FURTHER READING:
ELECTRONIC:

Advanced Diagnostics (DARPA) <http://www.darpa.mil/


dso/thrust/biosci/ADVDIAG/index.html> (March 13, 2003).
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense
Sciences Ofce <http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/biosci/
advdiagn.htm.> (March 13, 2003).

Biological Warfare,
Advanced Diagnostics
The Advanced Diagnostics Program is funded by the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United
States government (DARPA). Its objective is to develop
tools and medicines to detect and treat biological and
chemical weapons in the eld at concentrations low enough
to prevent illness. Challenges to this task include minimizing the labor, equipment, and time for identifying biological and chemical agents.
One area of interest includes development of eld
tools that can identify many different agents. To accomplish this goal, several groups funded under the advanced
diagnostics program have developed eld-based biosensors that can detect a variety of analytes including fragments of DNA, various hormones and proteins, bacteria,
salts, and antibodies. These biosensors are portable, run
on external power sources, and require very little time to
complete analyses.
A second focus of the advanced diagnostics project is
the identication of known and unknown or bioengineered
pathogens and development of early responses to infections. Many viruses act by destroying the ability of cells
to replicate properly. One group funded under the advanced diagnostics program is studying the enzyme 5monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH), which produces
products that are required for synthesizing nucleic acids,
such as RNA and DNA, both of which are essential for
proper cell replication. This group seeks to develop novel
drugs based on IMPDH, which can cross into cells and
thwart viral infection.
A nal goal is to develop the ability to continuously
monitor the body for evidence of infection. Researchers
are addressing this goal in two ways. The rst involves
engineering monitoring mechanisms that are internal to
the body. In particular, groups funded under the initiative
are developing bioengineered white blood cells to detect
infection from within the body. Often genetic responses to
infection occur within minutes of infection so analysis of

Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security

SEE ALSO
Biodetectors
Biological Warfare
Biomedical Technologies
Biosensor Technologies
Bioterrorism
Bioterrorism, Protective Measures

Biological Weapons,
Genetic Identication
Biological weapons are weapons whose payload consists of microorganisms that can cause infections, or the
toxic components of the microorganisms. Examples of
microorganisms include viruses (e.g., smallpox, Ebola,
inuenza), bacteria (e.g., Bacillus anthracis, Clostridium
botulinum, Yersinia pestis) and protozoa. The most prominent example of a toxic component is the variety of toxins
produced and released from bacteria (e.g. neurotoxins
produced by Clostridium).
Genetic technologies can be useful in the detection of
biological weapons. Of particular note is the polymerase
chain reaction, or PCR, which uses select enzymes to make
copies of genetic material. Within a working day, a target
sequence of genetic material can be amplied to numbers
that are detectable by laboratory tests such as gel electrophoresis. If the target sequence of nucleotides is unique to
the microorganism (e.g., a gene encoding a toxin), then
PCR can be used to detect a specic microorganism from
among the other organisms present in the sample.
Hand-held PCR detectors that have been used by
United Nations inspectors in Iraq during their weapons
inspections efforts of 20022003 purportedly can detect a
single living Bacillus anthracis bacterium (the agent of
anthrax) in an average kitchen-sized room.
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