Bioweapons experts believe that currently bioterrorists probably lack the biotechnological capability to produce-super pathogens or super pests

by Debajit Sarkar

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is increasing anxiety in several world capitals that biological weapons could be used against their military and non-combatant by rogue states and terrorist groups. The threat posed by biological warfare and bioterrorism is substantial. Small amounts of deadly biotic agents can be effortlessly cloaked, transported, and discharged into vulnerable populations. This fact impacts both military and civilian susceptibilities to biological weapons and to the complexity of offering ample safeguard. The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union developed on the Japanese know-how with biological weapons and were involved in complex biological weapons programs after World War II. Even today, several nations across the world continue to develop an offensive biological weapons capability.

Bioterrorists And Super Pathogens

Bioweapons experts believe that currently bioterrorists probably lack the biotechnological capability to produce-super pathogens or super pests. However, they could utilize tropical agricultural pathogens or pests as anti-crop agents to browbeat worldwide food security. Biological weapons comprise of transmittable agents (pathogens) and toxins. The most terribly destructive bioterrorism scenario would be the airborne dispersion of pathogens over a major population region. Agrarian records show, that the effects of the inadvertent introduction of exotic pests are shocking. The most perilous bioterrorism agents comprise microorganisms that create plague, anthrax, smallpox, and tularemia. Additional diseases that bioterrorists might try to spread are – melioidosis, brucellosis, Q fever, glanders and viral encephalitis.

Is COVID-19 A Bio Weapon?

COVID-19, the virus now triggering a worldwide pandemic, is alleged to have originated in bats. Some Asian intelligence agencies, after initially proclaiming that the coronavirus had occurred naturally, claimed last month that the pandemic may have begun from the Wuhan lab in China. Researchers from the Wuhan lab were probably able to figure out how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans. Whether the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated is not yet known.

Striking Back Against Bioterrorism

Some efforts are currently underway in the European Union, Russia and China to deter bioterrorists and biowarfare. Ongoing efforts ought to make it harder for terrorists to obtain the resources for designing biological weapons. These efforts should include:

Intelligence Sharing & Rapid Detection – Rapid detection and Surveillance are critical to an efficient response to a bioterror strike. Across-the-board bioterrorism reconnaissance will require combining human resources, laboratory resources, and information supervision in novel, legal, and satisfactory ways that allow for timely detection and categorization of hazards. Intelligence agencies of various countries should-operate and share credible intelligence that will be essential to prevent a bioterrorist attack.

Pathogen Analysis – Pathogens are a usual part of the environment and can, therefore, complicate detection attempts. For both environmental and medical situations, we need speedy, uniform techniques that allow for the discovery of an extensive range of prospective biological weapons in a measurable fashion.

Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention - Several countries are signatories to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972. The BWC prohibits signatories “to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise, acquire or retain:

Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;

Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”

However, there is no exact authentication method that can ensure compliance with the BWC. Therefore, efforts must be made to strengthen the BWC so that it helps to uncover and successfully prevent biological weapons programs.

Biodefence Systems

At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union had set up several Biodefense systems across the country. Today, similar systems need to be upgraded and installed in major urban conglomerates. These systems are needed to protect against deadly disease outbreaks initiated by bioterrorism. Essentials of preparation should include developing and stockpiling vaccines and antimicrobial medicines that can be used to defend the people against infections triggered by biological weapons; coaching first responders on how to deal with a biological weapons attack, and refining diagnostic laboratory capability and epidemiological capabilities.

It is not a secret that studies conducted to assess the actual efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are disturbingly insufficient. Taking into account that the implementation of some specific counter bioterrorism practices can possibly have consequences with respect to human rights, institutional liberties, fundamental democratic values and the Rule of Law. It is vital that engaged and methodical efforts in studying the efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are applied in a meticulous way.