Special characteristics make some microorganism suitable for use as biological weapon. Some of these characteristics may be in terms of their ability to reproduce rapidly, ability to produces certain poisonous substance into the system of their host, ability to form spores or small particles which are easily transported from one spot to another, and their ability to suppress the host immune system. A brief review of the history of biological weapons shows that certain characteristics or products of some microorganism have been tested and used as a biological weapon.
These products or characteristics are used specifically to interfere with the anatomical and physiological processes of the host. Some of this microorganism falls under the larger group of microorganism such as the bacteria, fungi, and virus. The most common microbes used in biological weapon are: Bacteria (anthrax and clostridium botulinum), virus (small pox, yellow fever and marbug virus) and fungi (Aspergillus mold).
Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax) There are several attributes that makes bacillus anthracis (anthrax) suitable for a biological weapon, some of this attributes are; ability to form spores which are easily distributed as aerosols or stay in the soil for a longer period of term without being destroyed by harsh environmental conditions, ability to enter into its host via a cut or opening, by inhalation of its spores and eating of infected meat.
Infection caused by the bacteria usually depends on the mode of entry of the bacteria into it host, some of the mode of entry are; inhalation of spore causing pulmonary infections, ingestion of infected meat causing gastrointestinal disorders and skin penetration causing cutaneous infections. The most important characteristics of all the attributes making anthrax bacteria suitable for biological weapon are its ability to form spores.
This is because spore formation enables the microorganism to form hard, shell like structure which confers some resistance against destruction by harsh environmental conditions (Cole, 2009), it also allow the bacteria to be aerosolized for easier dissemination and also the ability of the spores to be lodge in the lung tissues causing severe respiratory infection. Spores formed by anthrax can also be made into powder which is very tiny and easily spread and used in different form of weapon delivery system.
Epidemiology has also shown that respiratory infection caused by anthrax is commoner compare to infections of other system caused by anthrax. This shows that the etiology and pathogenesis of the respiratory infection must be identify and planned for in planning for bioterrorist threats. Considering the fact that human need to breathe 16-22 times per minutes and eat just four three or four times daily, man are more prone to the respiratory route of infection.
It is also very important to consider the ability of the anthrax spores to actually lodge within the lung tissues where it actually produces certain substances that cause respiratory collapse. Aspergillus Mold Aspergillus mold can also be used in the production of biological weapon simply because of the advancement in technology and the characteristics of the fungi that made it possible for the organism to produce some toxins that can lead to mass death of people in the affected population.
This organism has been found to kill rapidly when used as biological weapon (Davis, 2007). Some factors are very important when we consider the influence of mold and its product on the targeted hosts. Such factors are that; different species of mold act differently, concentration of the mold, length of exposure and the individual genetic susceptibility. The mold form by the Aspergillus can easily grow on various structures such as woods fiber boards, asbestos ceiling and some other materials used to build our homes.
This mold has the characteristic of accumulating very fast in human bodies and it’s usually difficult for the host to get them out when detected. Having considering several characteristics, the most important of them all and the characteristic of Aspergillus mold that make it suitable for biological weapon is its ability to produce poisonous substances which are referred to as “mycotoxins’’. The two major types of mycotoxins that are commonly used are the Aflatoxins and T-2 Trichothecene mycotoxins (Davis, 2007).
Aflatoxins are extremely dangerous because it is carcinogenic and usually contaminate nuts, maize, grains, tobacco and other commodities during their storage or transportation from place to another. This will definitely encourage it use as a biological weapon because the mold can be sprayed on the goods being exported to the target nation or it can be made to contaminate such commodities and other food products by other means. This chemical substance being produced by the Aspergillus mold can also cause both chronic and acute effects or conditions which can affect other body functions or system.
Since the poison can affect various systems such as the nervous system, cardiovascular system, pulmonary and digestive when an individual get in contact with it’s, then Aspergillus will serve as an important microbe for biological weapon. Variola major and minor (small pox) Variolas major and minor are the viruses that cause human infection known as small pox. This virus has various characteristics and can be classified as the double stranded DNA virus. Several other characteristics aid the virus in the pathogenesis of small pox.
The most important characteristics of this group of virus that made it possible for it to be used as a microorganism for biological weapon can be attributed to its ability to form small particles because of its shape and composition. Variola virus is made up of particles which are biconcave brick of about 200 to 400 nm in length. This small shape confers on the virus the characteristic of forming aerosols which helps in its distribution to various places effectively.
The issue with this aerosol formation by the virus is that the particles are easily and rapidly transmitted from one region to another and since the particles are very small, it can’t be identified when spread by mere naked eyes. These Variola virus small particles are also able to withstand various climatic conditions without being destroyed and it can easily be produced by terrorist. It is less expensive to produce the particles when compared some other viruses simply because some of those virus might be difficult to isolate based on their nature, characteristics and habitat.
These viral particles can also be easily transmitted from one person to another via the aerosols simply because of the physical properties of the virus. The rapid spread via the aerosol can lead to explosive epidemics which is one of the major aims of biological weapon. When there is transmission between two individual, infections usually occurs simply because of the virulence of each particle which is very high compare to other viruses. References Cole, L. (2009). “Chemical and Biological Warfare. ”. Microsoft Encarta 2009. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008. Davies, (2007).
“The mold used for biological weapons”. Toxic mold and their mycotoxins at our homes, workplace and schools. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from http://www. themoldmissionary. org/moldsusedforbiologicalweapons. html John, L. (2004) “An Introduction to Bacterial Identification”. Page 1: General Principles Retrieved July 31, 2009 from http://www. jlindquist. net/generalmicro/102bactid. html. Kenneth, T. (2006) “Overview of Bacteriology. ” University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Bacteriology. Retrieved on July 31, 2009 from http://textbookofbacteriology. net/bacteriology. html