Deadly Diseases May Return through Research into Biological Weapons
Lorna Duckworth Social Affairs Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
SMALLPOX, ANTHRAX and the plague could make a comeback because of increasing worldwide research into biological weapons, scientists warn.
Their concern follows the case of an American microbiologist who became infected with glanders, a potentially fatal disease which had not been recorded in the US for more than 50 years. The 33-year-old man who worked at Fort Detrick, the top-secret US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, recovered from the highly contagious illness after six months of treatment.
The disease, which was used by Germany as a biological weapon during the First World War, had been effectively eliminated from the West and the microbiologist was the first reported human case in English-language medical literature since 1949.
In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of specialists said the incident highlights the "frightening possibilities" still presented by a range of almost forgotten diseases. "This case may serve as a harbinger of the resurgence of nearly forgotten diseases such as glanders, plague, smallpox and anthrax. Research on these diseases is now being conducted in more laboratories, which increases the risk of occupational exposure. There is also the looming threat that some group will eventually mount a successful campaign of bio-terrorism."
The microbiologist had spent two years investigating the bacterium, which killed thousands of horses at the start of the 20th century and was used by the Germans in a programme of biological sabotage. During the First World War, cultures of glanders and anthrax were distributed to undercover agents who attempted to infect livestock that was being shipped to Allied countries.
The authors said: "The intention was both the destruction of the livestock and the transmission of the highly contagious, lethal agent from livestock to humans. It is currently suspected that attempts are being made to develop an aerosolised form of antibiotic- resistant Burkholderia mallei that could become a biologic weapon as potent as anthrax."
After the war, Western nations managed to eliminate glanders using aggressive …
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Publication information: Article title: Deadly Diseases May Return through Research into Biological Weapons. Contributors: Lorna Duckworth Social Affairs Correspondent - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 3, 2001. Page number: 6. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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