biological warfare

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Related to Biowarfare: Biochemical warfare

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

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biological warfare

[¦bī·ə¦läj·ə·kəl ′wȯr‚fer]
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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
A nuclear weapons attack will result in a certain and know-able demise for most persons circa the epicenter, but life may horribly proceed for victims of biowarfare. A palpable sense of futility and desolation, a magnification of the aforementioned, "dread, hidden guilt and nothingness" may well epitomize a postepidemic world order.
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In the introduction to Francis Boyle's 2005 book, Biowarfare and Terrorism, MIT molecular biology professor Jonathan King writes: "the Bush administration launched a major program which threatens to put the health of our people at far greater risk than the hazard to which they claimed to have been responding." Bush's policies, he continues, "do not increase the security of the American people" but "bring new risk to our population of the most appalling kind."
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The Army Research Office is interested, and UCSB has a $50 million center for biotechnology called the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology that's supported through that, and is interested in potential applications of Meinhart's research for the development of biowarfare detection equipment.
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GE pharmaceuticals might include, for example, vaccines or medicines for forms of cancer, infectious diseases, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases, metabolic disorders, and agents of biowarfare. Proponents believe plant-based pharmaceuticals will provide a far more cost-effective alternative to conventional pharmaceutical production, which now requires major investments both in large volumes of purified culture mediums and in manufacturing plants.
ADVNT Biotechnologies makes the BioWarfare Agent Detection Devices (BADD) that, according to the company, provides a higher level of sensitivity and specificity and does not require a reader.