Monday, 23 March 2020


Attempt to kill by disease in times of war are not new. During the 14th century in Eastern Europe, the corpses of plague victims were catapulted over the walls of a city under siege, in an incident 400 years later. British officers deliberately gave smallpox infected blankets to American Indians at a peace parley during the French and Indian war.

This triggered an epidemic that contributed to the Indian surrender. However, it was not until the end of 19th century that it was discovered that microbes cause infectious disease. For more than 25 years, American and former Soviet Union and several other nations, ambitiously pursued the development of biological weapons. In 1972 the nations agreed to ban these weapons. Some countries however, secretly continued development and research, amassing stockpiles of deadly biological agents along with the means to deliver.

What let to the official ban on such weapons are numerous. One reason for this is that their effect is not immediate, it takes time for symptoms to appear, another reason is that their effectiveness depends on fluctuations of wind and weather. One analysis compared the cost of using various weapons to kill unprotected people in an area of one square kilometer, the estimated cost using conventional weapons was put at 2,000 dollars nuclear weapons 800 dollars nerve-gas weapons 600 dollars and biological weapons 1 dollar.

The terrorist groups have experimented with biological weapons. Yet, there is a huge difference between experimenting with biological weapons and launching an effective attack with them.First, the terrorist organizations have to obtain a sufficiently lethal strain of a disease pathogen,secondly, the storage must be handled correctly and safely and thirdly, ability to produce it in bulk. Tiny amounts of micro-organism are lethal enough to ravage a field of crops, a herd of animals or a city of New York, London or Lagos, assuming the pathogen is delivered precisely to the target. However biological agents do not survive well outside the laboratory. In reality only a fraction of the biological agent would reach the target population, so vastly larger amounts would be needed to launch a catastrophic attack. The need to know how to disperse the pathogen effectively, this involves ensuring that the pathogen is delivered to the target in the right particle size, and in sufficient concentration to cause mass infection.

It took more than ten years for a highly trained team of American germ – warfare researchers to produce a reliable bio-weapon delivery system. Once a biological agent has been dispersed into the atmosphere, it is exposed to sunlight and varying temperatures, which can cause the micro-organism to die. Weaponising an agent, therefore calls for detailed knowledge of the behaviour of biological organisms in the air. Considering the array of technological hurdles involved, it is not surprising that few terrorist attacks with biological weapons over the year’s produce few casualties. Anthrax laced letters killed five people in the United State, after 11 September 2001 attack.

History is not a clear guide to the future. Though past attacks have largely failed, futures ones may succeed.Advances in biotechnology are also a matter of concern. Scientists already have the know-how to alter existing pathogens to make them extraordinarily lethal yet easier to handle. They can genetically alter harmless micro-organism to produce toxins. Organisms can also be manipulated so that they will escape standard detection methods. Further, micro-organisms can be designed to resist antibiotics standard vaccines, and therapies. Scientists who defected from the former Soviet Union for example, claimed to have developed a form of plague that was resistant to sixteen antibiotics. Extraordinary weapons of stealth might also be developed in the future.

For example, highly specific weapons could disable the immune system itself, rather than being infected with specific diseases. If such lethal AIDS like virus surfaces, who is to know whether the source is a natural mutation or a genetic manipulation concocted in the laboratory of the leaders.

Let us buttress this point with past occurrence of virus disease plague, a highly infectious disease caused by a bacterium. The first signs of the lethal pneumonic plague are fever, headache, weakness and cough. Septic shock will follow, and without early treatment with antibiotics, death is almost certain. The disease passes from person to person through salivia droplets. During the 14th century, within five years plagues killed about 13 million people in Chinaand 30 million in Europe. During the 1950’s and 1960’s both the United States and former Soviet Union developed techniques to spread pneumonic plague.

Smallpox: a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. Initial symptoms include high fever, fatigue, headaches and backaches. Later, painful lesions appear that become pus filled. One in three victims die. Smallpox was eliminated worldwide in 1977, after many years confirmation that the disease could not be eradicated. The disease spreads from person to person via infected salivia droplets, contaminated clothing or bed linen may also spread the virus.

In 1980, the Soviet Union launched a successful programme to produce larger amounts of smallpox and to adapt it for delivery by intercontinental ballistic missiles. Efforts were also made to develop strains of smallpox that were more virulent and contagious. Anthrax, an infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium, early symptoms of inhalation anthrax may resemble a common cold. After several days, symptoms progress, to severe breathing problems and shock. This form of anthrax is often fatal. In the second half of the 20th century, anthrax was developed as weapon by several countries, including United States and the former Soviet Union. According to one assessment by the United States Government the release of 100 kilograms of aerosolised anthrax over a major city like Lagos, Cairo or New York could be a lethal as a hydrogen bomb.

Botulism is a muscle paralysing disease caused by a toxin – producing bacterium. The symptoms of food-borne botulism include double or blurred vision, dropping eyelid, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and dry mouth. Paralysis of breathing muscle can cause death. Botulinum toxin is a prime choice as a bio-weapon not only because it is one of the most poisonous substances known but also because it is relatively easy to produce and transport. Several countries are suspected of developing botulinum toxin as a biological weapon. All these symptoms mentioned manifest in HIV/AIDS victim.

Biological warfare refers to the deliberate spreading of disease among humans, animals or plants. Disease occurs when the target population is infected by living micro-organisms. These organisms multiply (some producing toxins). Some biological weapons cause incapacitation other death. Still others can be used to attack and destroy crops.  I hope my fear is not confirm true, that many African Countries where HIV/Aids victims are high also recorded poor planting harvest and serious famine are manipulated by the world leaders rather than sexually abuse. At the beginning of HIV/AIDS existence, the victims figures were high among the American and Europe. Today the Western governments and their press are saying African Countries has 70% of HIV/AIDS victims.

All countries are potentially at risk if organism such as smallpox, plague, anthrax, botulinum and HIV/AIDS are used by the American and Allied forces against any country in nearest future. The effect could prove catastrophic in terms of the resulting illness and deaths compounded by the panic such outbreaks would generate. If the smallpox virus were released today, the majority of the world’s population would be defenceless and given the virus 30 percent kill rate, nearly two billion could die. It is a chilling irony; while men or women of brilliance have devoted their lives to the conquest of disease in humans, other with equal zeal and skill have focussed on the conquest of human by means of disease.

The attacks on World Trade Centre in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington D.C in 2001 dramatically showed that there exist ruthless and hate-driven people bent on the mass destruction of human life. Further, the attacks proved that the United States and by extension, every other nation are vulnerable to such attacks. We live in a world where determined terrorists and wicked leaders  can, in an instant, snuff out the lives of thousand of people. Swiftly following the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S politicians and employees of the news media became the targets of letters containing anthrax, a deadly bacterium people were fearful. Fuelling such fears, the media along with experts speculated that terrorists might attack with pathogens more lethal than anthrax. l may be and l want to be wrong that  conorovirus is   man made and  those should know are aware.

Olufemi Aduwo

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