The Scariest Biological Weapons

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10. Smallpox

There are two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. Variola minor is a less common presentation of smallpox, and a much less severe disease, with historical death rates of 1% or less. Subclinical (asymptomatic) infections with variola virus have also been noted, but are not believed to be common. In addition, a form called variola sine eruptione  (smallpox without rash) is seen generally in vaccinated persons. This form is marked by a fever that occurs after the usual incubation period and can be confirmed only by antibody studies or, rarely, by virus isolation.

Smallpox virus preferentially attacks skin cells, causing the characteristic pimples (called macules) associated with the disease. A rash develops on the skin 24 to 48 hours after lesions on the mucous membranes appear. Typically the macules first appear on the forehead, then rapidly spread to the whole face, proximal portions of extremities, the trunk, and lastly to distal portions of extremities.

The process takes no more than 24 to 36 hours, after which no new lesions appear. At this point Variola major infection can take several very different courses, resulting in four types of smallpox disease based on the Rao classification: ordinary, modified, malignant (or flat), and hemorrhagic. Historically, smallpox has an overall fatality rate of about 30%; however, the malignant and hemorrhagic forms are usually fatal. -Wikipedia.org

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9. Anthrax

Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease are lethal, and it affects both humans and other animals. There are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.  

Like many other members of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus anthracis can form dormant spores that are able to survive in harsh conditions for extremely long periods of time—even decades or centuries. Such spores can be found on all continents, even Antarctica. When spores are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with a skin lesion on a host they may reactivate and multiply rapidly.

Anthrax spores can be produced in vitro and used as a biological weapon. Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another; it is spread by spores. These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes. The dead body of an animal that died of anthrax can also be a source of anthrax spores. -Wikipedia.org

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8. Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

Ebola is the virus Ebolavirus (EBOV), a viral genus, and the disease Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), a viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF). The virus is named after the Ebola River Valley in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), which is near the site of the first recognized outbreak in 1976 at a mission hospital run by Flemish nuns.

It remained largely obscure until 1989 when several widely publicized outbreaks occurred among monkeys in the United States.  The virus interferes with the endothelial cells lining the interior surface of blood vessels and with coagulation. As the blood vessel walls become damaged and destroyed, the platelets are unable to coagulate, patients succumb to hypovolemic shock. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, while conjunctiva exposure may also lead to transmission.

Because of the virus’s high mortality, it is a potential agent for biological warfare. In 1992, members of Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult considered using Ebola as a terror weapon. Their leader, Shoko Asahara, led about forty members to Zaire under the guise of offering medical aid to Ebola victims in a presumed attempt to acquire a virus sample.

Given the lethal nature of Ebola, and since no approved vaccine or treatment is available, it is classified as a biosafety level 4 agent, as well as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has the potential to be weaponized for use in biological warfare. The effectiveness as a biological weapon is compromised by its rapid lethality as patients quickly die off before they are capable of effectively spreading the contagion. -Wikipedia.org

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7. Plague

Plague is a deadly infectious disease caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis (Pasteurella pestis). Primarily carried by rodents (most notably rats) and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death and devastation it brought. Plague is still endemic in some parts of the world.  

Plague has a long history as a biological weapon. Historical accounts from ancient China and medieval Europe detail the use of infected animal carcasses, such as cows or horses, and human carcasses, by the Xiongnu/Huns, Mongols, Turks, and other groups, to contaminate enemy water supplies. Han Dynasty General Huo Qubing  is recorded to have died of such a contamination while engaging in warfare against the Xiongnu. Plague victims were also reported to have been tossed by catapult into cities under siege.

During World War II, the Japanese Army developed weaponised plague, based on the breeding and release of large numbers of fleas. During the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Unit 731 deliberately infected Chinese, Korean, and Manchurian civilians and prisoners of war with the plague bacterium. These subjects, termed “maruta”, or “logs”, were then studied by dissection, others by vivisection while still conscious.

Members of the unit such as Shiro Ishii were exonerated from the Tokyo tribunal by Douglas MacArthur but twelve of them were prosecuted in the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials in 1949 during which some admitted having spread Bubonic plague within a 36-km radius around the city of Changde. -Wikipedia.org

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6. Tularemia

Tularemia (also known as Pahvant Valley plague, rabbit fever, deer fly fever, Ohara’s fever) is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. A Gram-negative, nonmotile coccobacillus, the bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence. The most important of those is F. tularensis tularensis (Type A), which is found in lagomorphs in North America and is highly virulent for humans and domestic rabbits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regard F. tularensis as a viable bioweapons agent, and it has been included in the biological warfare programs of the USA, USSR and Japan at various times. A former Soviet biological weapons scientist, Kenneth Alibek, has alleged that an outbreak of Tularemia among German soldiers shortly before the siege of Stalingrad was due to the release of F. tularensis by Soviet forces, but this claim is rejected by others who have studied the outbreak. In the US, practical research into using tularemia as a bioweapon took place in 1954 at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas, an extension of the Camp Detrick program.

No vaccine is available to the general public. The best way to prevent tularemia infection is to wear rubber gloves when handling or skinning lagomorphs (such as rabbits), avoid ingesting uncooked wild game and untreated water sources, wear long-sleeved clothes, and use an insect repellent to prevent tick bites. -Wikipedia.org

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5. Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum toxin is a protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and is known to be highly neurotoxic. When introduced intravenously in monkeys, type A of the toxin exhibits an LD50 of 40-56 ng, type C1 around 32 ng, type D 3200 ng, and type E 88 ng, rendering the above types some of the most powerful neurotoxins known. Popularly known by one of its trade names, Botox, botulinum toxin is now commonly used for various cosmetic and medical procedures.

Botulinum toxin has been recognized and feared as a potential bioterror weapon. Intentional exposure to the toxin in a bioterrorism attack would most likely occur by poisoned food or water, or through breathing in the toxin. -Wikipedia.org

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4. Rice Blast

Magnaporthe grisea, also known as rice blast fungus, rice rotten neck, rice seedling blight, blast of rice, oval leaf spot of graminea, pitting disease, ryegrass blast, and Johnson spot, is a plant-pathogenic fungus that causes an important disease affecting rice. It is now known that M. grisea consists of a cryptic species complex containing at least two biological species that have clear genetic differences and do not interbreed.

M. grisea spores were prepared as an anti-plant biological weapon independently by the United States and the USSR during World War II.The United States is known to have researched the agent for use against Japan’s rice crop during World War II. The United States Chemical Warfare Service  worked with Canadian and British scientists to weaponize rice blast but as World War II ended in Europe it was not ready for use in battle. Because the spores did not fare well in warm weather, the agent was not seen as having much potential as a biological weapon.

U.S. biological warfare research showed renewed interest in M. grisea as a weapon during the 1960s. From 1962–1969 M. grisea spores were produced by Charles Pfizer and Company and shipped to Fort Detrick. The entire U.S. stockpile of M. grisea was destroyed during the United States’ biological weapons demilitarization process, which was completed in 1973. There are also concerns that M. grisea may be used as a biological weapon by a terrorist organization. -Wikipedia.org

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3. Rinderpest

Rinderpest is an infectious viral disease of cattle, domestic buffalo, and some species of wildlife. It is commonly referred to as cattle plague or steppe murrain. The disease is characterized by fever, oral erosions, diarrhea, lymphoid necrosis, and high mortality. The term Rinderpest is taken from German, and means cattle-plague. It has been the target of a global campaign of eradication. As of 2008, last know case of rinderpest was diagnosed in 2001.

Rinderpest was one of more than a dozen agents that the United States researched as potential biological weapons before the nation suspended its biological weapons program. -Wikipedia.org

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2. Nipah Virus

Nipah virus was identified in 1999 when it caused an outbreak of neurological and respiratory disease on pig farms in peninsular Malaysia, resulting in 105 human deaths and the culling of one million pigs. In Singapore, 11 cases including one death occurred in abattoir workers exposed to pigs imported from the affected Malaysian farms. The Nipah virus has been classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a Category C agent.

The outbreak was originally mistaken for Japanese encephalitis (JE), however, physicians in the area noted that persons who had been vaccinated against JE were not protected, and the number of cases among adults was unusual. Despite the fact that these observations were recorded in the first month of the outbreak, the Ministry of Health failed to react accordingly and instead launched a nationwide campaign to educate people on the dangers of JE and its vector, Culex mosquitoes.  

Symptoms of infection from the Malaysian outbreak were primarily encephalitic in humans and respiratory in pigs. Later outbreaks have caused respiratory illness in humans, increasing the likelihood of human-to-human transmission and indicating the existence of more dangerous strains of the virus. -Wikipedia.org

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1. Chimera Viruses

A chimera virus is defined by the Center for Veterinary Biologics (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) as a “new hybrid microorganism created by joining nucleic acid fragments from two or more different microorganisms in which each of at least two of the fragments contain essential genes necessary for replication.”

The term chimera already referred to an individual organism whose body contained cell populations from different zygotes or an organism that developed from portions of different embryos. In mythology, a chimera is a creature such as a hippogriff or a gryphon formed from parts of different animals, thus the name for these viruses. -Wikipedia.org

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