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Usage of Plague as a Biological Weapon Bioterrorism is defined as the intentional use of dangerous microorganisms or viruses to kill a large population of people. Common examples of biological agents include anthrax, botulism, smallpox, and the plague. The most common form is the bubonic plague that caused the deaths of a large percentage of the population in Europe during the Middle Ages. The bacterium, Yersinia pestis, causes three forms of the plague; however the pneumonic plague is used in bioterrorism because of its advantages in transmission and production. To be infected with the pneumonic plague, a person simply needs to breathe in enough of the aerosolized bacteria to allow them to incubate inside the body.
Once the spores are in the body, they infect various organs, causing mass infection and eventually collapse of the immune system. This results in death. Anthrax is used as a biological weapon because it is very deadly and is difficult to detect. Anthrax is also common in nature, there fore it is an easy bacterium to find and spread. Anthrax is a bacterium that affects both humans and animals.
Why Should We Be Concerned About Biological Warfare? JAMA 278(5):431-2. Franz, D; McClain, D; Pavlin, J (1997). Clinical Recognition and Management of Patients Exposed to Biological Agents. JAMA 278(5):399-409.
Think of the flu virus in the early 1900’s, it killed thousands of people. The pathogens that make up this virus multiplied over and over until eventually there was an uncontrollable epidemic throughout the United States (Steinbruner, 1997). Many of us think that the influenza virus was an epidemic that will never happen again but then came other biological agents such as smallpox and the deadly anthrax virus. We’ve come to the realization now that biological substances are the weapons of choice. Yes we do have nuclear and chemical weapons that threaten our society, but these weapons aren’t alive.
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Fatal Dilemma: Using Clostridium botulinum as a Biological Weapon Ever since the dawn of biotechnology, the world had to face a new dilemma: bioterrorism. Using biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc., bioterrorism attack aims to cause illness of death in people, animals, or plants as a method of warfare. Used throughout history, biological weapon serves as a pivotal role in disarming an army. Botulism toxin, known for the most toxic substance in the biological world, has been used throughout history as a biological weapon. The bacteria Clostridium botulinum causes botulism causes botulism disease, which is a serious paralytic illness that strikes all age groups.
Staphylococcus aureus colonization: Modulation of host immune response and impact on human vaccine design. Frontiers in Immunology, 4, . doi:10.3389/fimmu.2013.00507 (Brown, Leech, Rogers, & McLoughlin, 2014) Cesur, S., & Eokca, F. (2004). Nasal carriage of Methicillin‐Resistant staphylococcus aureus among hospital staff and Outpatients •. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, 25(2), 169–171.