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

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.
References in periodicals archive ?
It is being developed for prevention and treatment of inhalational anthrax following a biowarfare attack.
The new CRDA extension will focus on the application of the Elusys HP Antibody technology as a platform for developing safe and effective countermeasures against biowarfare agents and other emerging infections," said Elston.
The DTRA award will enable Numerate to apply its technology to develop new methods for predicting the ADME properties of compounds, enhancing the effectiveness and safety of drug leads that could lead to new biowarfare countermeasures.
military to develop HE2100 as rapidly as possible and believe it will prove to be an important part of the role biotechnology must play in improving homeland defense with respect to the threat of nuclear terrorism and biowarfare.
SIGA believes that it is a leader in the development of pharmaceutical agents to fight potential biowarfare pathogens.
will then interpret the change in the rate of metabolism as a biowarfare agent
During a biowarfare agent release event, the bacterial content in the reagents will increase as the air is sampled into the reagents.
Donald Drapkin, Chairman of SIGA, added, "Smallpox is one of the great biowarfare threats, and SIGA-246 demonstrates SIGA's leadership in efforts to counteract that threat.
It is considered one of the most significant threats for use as a biowarfare agent due to the fact that people in the United States have not been vaccinated against it since 1972.
Vaccinated animals exhibited potential protection against a lethal challenge with highly pathogenic Lassa fever virus, which is considered to be a possible agent for bioterrorism and biowarfare.
Callisto also has drugs in preclinical development for gastrointestinal inflammation, and a program focused on the development of a drug to protect against Staphylococcus and Streptococcus biowarfare agents.
Callisto also has drugs in preclinical development for gastro-intestinal inflammation, and a program focused on the development of a drug to protect against Staphylococcus and Streptococcus biowarfare agents.