BioWeapon : A Global Issue
Biological Weapon, this varies phrase has the potential to send chills down your spine. But what are they? How do they work? And are we actually at risk? In this Spotlight, we will review their history and potential future.
What is BioWeapon?
Sometimes referred to as “Germ Warfare”, BioWeapons involve the use of infectious agents that are biological in origin. This includes bacteria, viruses, or fungi. These agents are used to kill humans, animals, or plants as a part of the war effort.
Deadly and Cheap
When compared with the cost of a nuclear weapon, bioweapons are extremely cheap. It was estimated that 1 gram of toxin could kill 10 million people. A purified sort of Botulinum neurotoxin is approximately 3 million times more strenuous than Sarin, a chemical nerve agent. As a comparison, a SCUD missile filled with neurotoxin can affect a total area of 3800 sq. km, an area 17 times greater than could be affected with Sarin.
In one analysis, the comparative cost of civilian casualties is 2000 US dollars per square kilometer with conventional weapons, 800 dollars with nuclear weapons, 600 dollars with nerve-gas weapons, and only 1 dollar with biological weapons. Not surprisingly, bioweapons have long ago referred to as the poor man’s plutonium bomb.
Biological Warfare : The Early Days
Coronavirus disease is a disease produced by severe acute respiratory syndrome. Since 2019, the disease has spread globally. Is it possible that Covid-19 is truly a bioweapon? Many western analysts have declared Covid-19 a biological weapon developed by the communist regime in China. Whether Covid-19 is a biological weapon or not but history suggests that bioweapons were developed and employed in war’s, especially in the last century.
An early example takes us back over 2 and a half millennia. Assyrians had developed biological weapons and infected their enemy’s wells with Rye Ergot fungus, which contains chemicals associated with LSD. Drinking contaminated water produced a confused psychological state, hallucinations, and in some cases, death.
In 1300, Tartar warriors besieged the Crimean city of Kaffa. During the war, many Tartars died because of plague, and their lifeless, infected bodies were hurled over the town walls. Few analysts believe that this tactic was responsible for the spread of the Black Death plague in entire Europe. If so, the early use of bioweapon caused the eventual deaths of around 25 million Europeans.
In 1763, the British Army used smallpox as a bioweapon against Native Americans in the siege. To spread smallpox to the locals, they presented blankets from a smallpox hospital as gifts. Today, we know that this was a comparatively ineffective way to transmit smallpox, but the intent was there.
During WW II, many countries involved looked into bio attack with great interest. The Allies built facilities that were capable of producing Anthrax spores, Brucellosis, and Botulism toxins. Thankfully, the war ended before they were used.
Bioterrorism : Modern Concerns
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention defines bioterrorism as “Planned release of virus, bacteria or other germs which can kill people, livestock or crops”
Utilizing such weapons holds a particular appeal to terrorists, they have the potential to cause great harm, of course, but they’re also fairly cheap to produce in comparison with missiles or other more hi-tech equipment. Also, due to the long time that it takes for them to spread and take effect, there’s a lot of time for the perpetrator to flee away undetected.
Biological weapons will be difficult to control during a war since there’s a considerable risk that troops of each side are going to be affected. However, if any terrorist group is interested in attacking a far off target, bioterrorism carries much less risk to them. A number of biological weapons are:
Scientists believe that the foremost bioweapon to be employed in bioterrorism attack is Bacillus Anthracis, a bacteria that causes Anthrax. It is widely found in nature, easily produced within the laboratory, and survives for a long time. Also, it is versatile and may be released in powders, sprays, water, or food.
Anthrax has been used before. In 2001, Anthrax spores were sent by the U.S. postal system. Among all 24 peoples who came in contact with Anthrax, died. And, the guilty were never caught.
Another agent of bioterrorism is smallpox, which unlike anthrax, can spread from one person to another. Smallpox is no longer a concern in the world because concerted vaccination efforts had stamped it out.
I have already mentioned the Tartar’s use of the plague, Yersinia Pestis, many years ago, but many believe that it may be employed in the trendy world, too. Yersinia Pestis is passed to humans through the bite of a flea that has consumed infected rodents.
Some consider Tularemia, an infection caused by a bacteria species, Francisella Tularensis bacterium, as a potential biological weapon. It causes fever, ulcerations, swelling of lymph glands, and sometimes, pneumonia.
A Worrying Future?
A gene-editing technology called CRISPR had rung alarm bells in the defense community; the technology allows researchers to edit genomes, thereby easily modifying DNA sequences to change gene function. If used properly, this tool has the potential to correct genetic defects. If falls in the wrong hands, it has the potential for evil.
Bio warfare is using a non-human life to end human life. As living organisms may be unpredictable and incredibly resilient, biological weapons are difficult to regulate, potentially devastating on large scale. These weapons are prohibited around the world under numerous treaties. But, treaties and international laws are one thing and human ability to find innovative ideas for killing each other is another.