WHAT IS BIO-WARFARE?
The term bio-warfare is made up of two words bio and warfare. Bio means living entity while warfare is an organized large scaled armed conflict between nations, countries and ethnic groups usually the involving the military. Biological warfare (BW)—also known as germ warfare—is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war and the living entities employed are known as bio-weapon.
ORGANISMS USED FOR BIO-WARFARE
Agents considered for weaponization, or known to be weaponized, include bacteria such as Bacillus anthracis which causes anthracis, Brucella spp which causes brucellosis, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderiapseudomallei, Chlamydophila psittaci, Coxiellaburnetii, Francisella tularensis, some of the Rickettsiaceae (especially Rickettsia prowazekii and Rickettsia rickettsii), Shigella spp., Vibrio choleraewhich causes cholera, and Yersinia pestis which caused the bubonic plague or the terrible black death. Many viral agents have been studied and/or weaponized, including some of the Bunyaviridae (especially Rift Valley fever virus), Ebolavirus, many of the Flaviviridae (especially Japanese encephalitis virus), Machupo virus, Marburg virus, Variola virus, and Yellow fever virus. Fungal agents that have been studied include Coccidioides spp..
Toxins that can be used as weapons include ricin which is a highly naturally occurring lectin produced in the seed of cashor oil plant, staphylococcal enterotoxin B, botulinum toxin, saxitoxin which is a very poisonous neuro and parasitic toxin caused by the ingestion of shell fish contaminated by the toxin, and many mycotoxins. These toxins and the organisms that produce them are sometimes referred to as select agents.
Having looked at the organisms what makes these organisms ideal choices for bio-terrorists, letsfind out
CHARACTERISTICS OF ORGANISMS USED FOR BIO-WARFARE
Ideal characteristics of a biological agent to be used as a weapon against humans are high infectivity, high virulence, non-availability of vaccines, and availability of an effective and efficient delivery system. Stability of the weaponized agent (ability of the agent to retain its infectivity and virulence after a prolonged period of storage) may also be desirable, particularly for military applications, and the ease of creating one is often considered. Control of the spread of the agent may be another desired characteristic.
The primary difficulty is not the production of the biological agent, as many biological agents used in weapons can often be manufactured relatively quickly, cheaply and easily. Rather, it is the weaponization, storage and delivery in an effective vehicle to a vulnerable target that poses significant problems.
Why is bio weapon a mostly preferred choice to nuclear or chemical weapons, lets find out
ADVANTAGES OF USING BIOLOGICAL AGENTS AS WEAPONS OF WAR
Biological weapons are difficult to detect, economical and easy to use, making them appeal to the terrorists. The cost of a biological weapon is estimated to be about 0.05 percent the cost of a conventional weapon in order to produce similar numbers of mass casualties per kilometer square. Moreover, their production is very easy as common technology can be used to produce biological warfare, like that used in production of vaccines, foods, spray devices, beverages and antibiotics.
A major factor about biological warfare that attracts terrorists is that they can easily escape, before the government agencies or secret agencies have even started their investigation. This is because the potential organism has incubation period of 3 to 7 days, after which the results begin to appear, thereby giving the terrorists a lead. But remember, not all that glitters are gold, now lets explore the possible disadvantages associated with our darling bio warfare, lets ride on
DISADVANTAGES ASSOCIATED WITH USE OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
As a tactical weapon for military use, a significant problem with a BW attack is that it would take days to be effective, and therefore might not immediately stop an opposing force. Some biological agents (smallpox, pneumonic plague) have the capability of person-to-person transmission via aerosolized respiratory droplets.
This feature can be undesirable, as the agent(s) may be transmitted by this mechanism to unintended populations, including neutral or even friendly forces.
While containment of BW is less of a cboncern for certain criminal or terrorist organizations, it remains a significant concern for the military and civilian populations of virtually all nations. the weapon could backfire and harm the army on the offensive, perhaps having even worse effects than on the target. An agent like smallpox or other airborne viruses would almost certainly spread worldwide and ultimately infect the user’s home country.
Now having gone through the history, organisms employed, the advantages and disadvantages lets look out the predisposing signs that may give us insights on when to suspect the presence of bio weapons
BY AKUBUO CHIGAEMEZU