biological warfare

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biological warfare,

employment in war of microorganisms to injure or destroy people, animals, or crops; also called germ or bacteriological warfare. Limited attempts have been made in the past to spread disease among the enemy; e.g., military leaders in the French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
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 tried to spread smallpox among the Native Americans. Biological warfare has scarcely been used in modern times and was prohibited by the 1925 Geneva Convention. However, many nations in the 20th cent. have conducted research to develop suitable military microorganisms, including strains of smallpox, anthrax, plague, and some nonlethal agents. Such microorganisms can be delivered by animals (especially rodents or insects) or by aerosol packages, built into artillery shells or the warheads of ground-to-ground or air-to-ground missiles and released into the atmosphere to infect by inhalation.

In 1972 the United States and the Soviet Union adopted an agreement, endorsed by the UN General Assembly and now ratified by more than 140 nations, to destroy existing stockpiles of biological weapons and refrain from developing or stockpiling new biological weapons. The treaty does allow research for defensive purposes, such as to develop antidotes to biological weapons. After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, it was disclosed that the Soviets had secretly increased research and production of a wide variety of deadly biological agents. Although Russian president Boris Yeltsin publicly ordered (1992) the abandonment of germ warfare, some expressed suspicion about the continued production of biological weapons in post–cold war Russia.

With the rise of extremist groups and the disintegration of the established international political order in the late 20th cent., biological weapons again began to be perceived as a serious threat. In the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.

The First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
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, five hidden germ-warfare laboratories and stockpiles of anthrax, botulism, and gas gangrene bacteria were discovered in Iraq. In addition to Iraq and Russia, North Korea, Iran, Egypt, Israel, China, and other nations are suspected of various violations of the 1972 agreement.

In 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, anthrax was sent through the mail in bioterrorist attacks against several locations in the United States. There was, however, no clear connection between the two terror attacks. In an attempt to develop a warning system for a bioterror attack, the Environmental Protection Agency's air quality monitoring system was adapted (2003) to permit detection of an outdoor release of smallpox and other pathogens. Such a system, however, would not have detected the narrowly focused indoor anthrax attacks of 2001.

See also chemical warfarechemical warfare,
employment in war of incendiaries, poison gases, and other chemical substances. Ancient armies attacking or defending fortified cities threw burning oil and fireballs. A primitive type of flamethrower was employed as early as the 5th cent. B.C.
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.

Bibliography

See study by J. Miller et al. (2001).

biological warfare

[¦bī·ə¦läj·ə·kəl ′wȯr‚fer]
(ordnance)
Abbreviated BW.
Employment of living microorganisms, toxic biological products, and plant growth regulators to produce death or injury in humans, animals, or plants.
Defense against such action.
References in periodicals archive ?
For Ebola to be used as a bioweapon in its naturally occurring state requires several highly technical steps.
Accordingly, this article contemplates our "mental relationship" to bioweapons by considering the meanings and implications of "weaponizing disease," the social, political, and cultural subtext of its potential use.
Consider how inspections are complicated by the need to have samples of a bioweapon not just in facilities that are designed for weapons production but also in facilities designed for developing defenses-vaccines and antidotes-against such weapons.
Aum Shinrikyo is purported to have spent $20 million in its pursuit of an effective bioweapon.
The availability of unemployed scientists with ties to former bioweapons producing countries
The premiere kicks off with Eph struggling to build a potent bioweapon and Setrakian attempting to crack the Lumen's secrets.
The Pentagon's budget for chemical and biological defense has doubled; high-security nuclear-weapons labs have begun conducting genetic research on dangerous pathogens; universities are receiving government funding to build high-tech labs equipped to handle deadly infectious organisms; and Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the home of America's secret bioweapons program, is about to break ground on two new high-tech biodefense centers.
Others Islamic extremists with similar expertise are believed to be associated with al Qaeda and have the ability to produce a bioweapon.
html) noted anthrax is a usable bioweapon due to its efficiency and abundance in nature.
Although brucellosis is a rare disease in the United States, its potential use as a bioweapon highlights the need for accurate and rapid identification (15).
In addition, we will continue our work on the genome sequencing of organisms most likely to be used as bioweapons, so that we can not only quickly identify the biological agent, but also develop effective therapies.
If Francisella tularensis were to be used as a bioweapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne.