Biowarfare corresponds to the deliberate spread of pathogenic microorganisms like bacteria, virus, fungi, and toxins to cause harm to humans, animals, plants, or the environment as an act of terror or war. The biological weapons are termed as the “atom bomb of poor” as they can be exploited by the terror groups and weak states for mass destruction, threatening or revenge.
Bioweapons are much more dangerous in comparison to chemical weapons because they are required in lesser amount, can spread itself naturally, cause lasting effects, difficult to detect (being colorless, odorless, and invisible), selective targeting (if vaccine is available by the spreader), and easy production without any sophisticated and expensive equipment. They can be disseminated in the form of explosives (missiles, bombs etc.), aerosol sprays, through contaminated edibles, and direct injections.
Biowarfare is not new, there are many events in history following this war strategy. The biggest events being held during the World War Ⅰ and World War Ⅱ. Poisonous mustard gas was used during WWⅠ and the deadly pathogens including cholera, anthrax, plague etc. were weaponized in WWⅡ, inspite of having a treaty in 1925 after WWⅠ that mentions the eradication of bioweapons from future wars.
After WWⅠ, US and Russia launched their mass bioweapons programs intended to produce aerosol bombs, ballistic missiles etc. for the spread of deadly bacteria and viruses. However, in 1969, US unconditionally ended this program and destroyed all their stockpiles by 1972, with an intention to ensure biosafety. More than 160 countries signed a treaty to ban the use of bioweapons in the warfare however, still 52 countries didn’t sign it including Somalia, Israel, and Egypt. By and then several states have violated the agreement and over a dozen countries are still expected to be actively involved in this inhumane activity.
Anthrax is one of the widely adapted agents of choice in the biowarfare programs. Anthrax bacteria spread through spores that are deadly, if inhaled in large quantity, causing inhalation anthrax, which is fatal if not treated immediately after exposure with high doses of antibiotics. Anthrax spores are easy to produce in large quantity, and relatively safe to handle moreover their spores can remain viable for over 100 years if kept in dry conditions away from sunlight. The prolonged shelf life makes it a perfect bioweapon to be delivered through aerosol bombs to the targeted areas. Anthrax is not much contagious thus limiting the spread to the intended area only and the vaccine can be used by the spreader to protect the people they intend to.
There is something even worse than the conventional agents of biowarfare like smallpox, anthrax etc. and these are genetically engineered microorganisms intended to be used as bioweapons. This shadowy science of engineering biological agents is called “black biology”. The molecular biology techniques like gene therapy, genetic engineering, and CRISPR-Cas9, can both be friend and foe, depending upon the intentions of use.
The concepts of “super bacteria” (resistant to most antibiotics), “designer diseases” (incurable with traditional treatments), and “stealth virus” (that infect the host but remain inactive unless triggered by an external factor) are real and can be exploited by the scientists seeking financial gains and terror groups. It is possible because all the genetic information such as genome maps of disease causing microorganisms are available publicly in the scientific repositories that can be used for deliberate cloning and creation of deadly variants. It is inevitable to take this threat seriously and take necessary measures to eradicate it, before ITS TOO LATE!