Are we prepared for biological terror?. Nature and Duality. Let us look at biological threats. Since 11 September 2001, 5 persons are thought to have died from deliberate contamination with Anthrax - none in Europe. In the same period over 20 million people died from AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Nature and Duality
Since 11 September 2001, 5 persons are thought to have died from deliberate contamination with Anthrax - none in Europe.
In the same period over 20 million people died from AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Altogether natural infections probably killed over 100 million world-wide. Many diseases are unrecognised infections - cancers caused by viruses, heart disease caused by Chlamydia pneumoniae etc.
30. A) 3)
30. A) 5)
Traditional vaccine technologies frequently use live attenuated microbes grown in fermenters. These same fermenters can be used for producing fully active offensive agents (such as anthrax or smallpox).
Should dual use worries add another layer of difficulty for vaccine producers? This will hurt children and developing nations most.
Is this what we want?
In the First World War the British planned to use anthrax to damage the German army’s transport capability - then still dependent on horses.
The 1969-71 Southern Corn Blight outbreak destroyed 15% of the USA’s maize crop.
The post-reunification German government supported research to biodegrade the plastic body of East German Trabant motor vehicles which constituted a stock of ecologically undesirable organic material.
the up-side of dual use
Fear of deliberately aimed biological weapons arguably is creating a useful capacity to react to “The Next Virus”.
New R&D into pathogens, new vaccine production capability and reinforced epidemiological surveillance targeted at biological weapons use, have a direct and positive effect on civil and military readiness for Bioterror or Mother Nature’s next aberration.
In the opening years of the 21st century crop losses from diseases and parasites cost the USA up to $5 billion per annum.
This loss is to the benefit of foreign competitors.
When does economic competition step over the line into economic warfare?
In Europe of the 25 EU members health delivery is about 12% of GDP or about €800 billion. Total cost of health delivery in the USA is about 15% of GDP, $4,000 per person or over $1 trillion!
About 15% of this gigantic total, about €300 billion will represent the overall costs of fighting infection.
How much do we spend on preparedness?
Man-made or natural infectious outbreaks could decimate the global economy.
Randomly taking 20 million workers out of the EU economy would have catastrophic consequences. Treating 20 million sick, and perhaps dying, would be an enormous (insurmountable?) logistical challenge.
Since 1972 signatories to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) have renounced weapons development
Most have honoured this commitment, but the USSR and now Russia have been conspicuously in breach. The USA has been accused.
All G7 nations have the capacity (i.e. dual-use potential) to move from vaccine production to weapons production in days.
Responsible editorial practice has until now limited the untoward use of potentially harmful scientific information. Change is unnecessary.
The new biology has great potential to do good in the world, yet unfounded scare campaigns in the rich nations are preventing poor nations’ access to essential technologies.
Look at the EU’s ridiculous stance on food produced from gene modified organisms.
Why should the rich world have a say in how Iran or Egypt develop vaccines? Our record is not good. Where are the vaccines for malaria, AIDS, or TB? Where are the plans for generating economic growth in the most needy of nations?
It is easy to recruit poor individuals in poor societies by telling them that the rich western world is responsible.
Are we supporting terrorists by failing to address global health and economic issues?
Is the theoretical possession, or capability of deployment, of "weapons of mass destruction" (and the resulting isolation and sanctions) itself used as an economic weapon against those developing nations which dare to defy the economic hegemony of the rich?
Will dual-use potential be used as an argument to prevent access to essential technologies?
Together with the USA, Europe is a major contributor to the growth of knowledge in life science.
Overall Europe’s (EU plus Switzerland) public sector probably spends about €10 billion on life science research.
Europe’s private sector spends about €28 billion on life science research (mostly in the pharmaceutical sector).
What basic research has relevance to defence and preparedness for infectious or toxin agents?
Epidemiology looks at disease in populations
Microbiology looks at infectious agents
Immunology natural response to infection
Vaccinology vaccine surrogates for agents
Human, animal and plant biology cover the range of human health and economic consequences of attacking animal and plant food sources.
The tools of modern biology are susceptible to mis-use. This is also true for motor vehicles, screwdrivers or kitchen knives. Any heavy object can be used as a weapon.
So with modern biology a RISK of abuse exists. But is it true to suggest that this risk translates into THREAT that is to say a “real and present danger”.
Preparedness should seek to identify the translation of risk into threat. When does a kitchen knife become a weapon? When does a fermenter become a weapon producing tool?
European and US industry lead the world in vaccine development capability, fermentation technologies and fast response to challenges.
Together with public health laboratories and academic research, industry can act quickly to respond or to anticipate an epidemic disease manifestation.
Government must catalyse the relevant dialogue through structured initiatives that offer sensible incentives to industrial and public sector partners.
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