Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization

Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization

Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization

Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization

Synopsis

This new work offers a clear and thorough account of the threats posed by bioterrorism from the perspective of biologists. The authors examine thirteen disease-causing agents, including those responsible for anthrax, the plague, smallpox, influenza, and SARS. Each chapter considers a particular pathogen from the standpoint of its history, molecular biology, pathology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, weaponization, and defenses. The book also examines strategies for making vaccines and protecting the population in a bioterror attack.

Excerpt

Concerns about bioterrorism led me to organize a college seminar course on microbiology and bioterrorism. This book, written mainly by students who participated in the seminar, follows the general structure of the course. Pathogens considered to be major biothreats are the central topic. They are examined from the standpoint of their biology and the steps that might be taken to defend against them. The information complements what is usually presented in a microbiology text, and there is little overlap.

The first chapter deals with general aspects of bioterrorism. Each of the 12 chapters that follow deals with a specific pathogen. In selecting the pathogens to be covered, we were guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has classified most pathogens into Categories A, B, or C, depending on their prevalence, ease of access and use, and potentially lethal effects if used in a bioterrorist attack. Six pathogens in Category A, three in Category B, and one in Category C are considered. In addition, two pathogens are discussed that have not been ranked by the CDC: the influenza virus and the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Each pathogen is considered from the standpoint of its history, molecular biology, pathology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, weaponization characteristics, and specific defenses.

The four appendixes deal with rapid drug discovery, strategies for developing and manufacturing vaccines, protective measures for individuals, and sources of information on bioterrorism. The book concludes with a glossary.

Bioterrorism is a provocative subject that disturbs many people to the extent that they would rather not discuss it. Consider the fear generated by an incident involving anthrax that occurred shortly after September 11, 2001. A few letters that had been posted from a mailbox in Trenton, New Jersey, were found to contain powdered anthrax, and a few individuals were exposed to lethal doses. The investigation that followed resulted in the closing of the Senate office building for several months and considerable anxiety among postal workers, who wanted . . .

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