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Monday, October 24, 2016

How real is today, the threat of “biological terrorism”

The news that managed to decode the genome of the bacterium that caused the epidemic of anthrax in Sverdlovsk in the late 70’s, and thereby learn more about the creation of the Soviet biological weapons caused a spike of interest in the topic of bioterrorism. How relevant is the threat today and whether to expect attacks that were carried out by using such weapons?

Cinematic realities under which biological weapons can create a homemade and a little in the basement, in real life, have no relationship. Not to mention the costly and cumbersome equipment, such require special storage conditions, is not available to every University. Storage of materials – the weakest link in the entire chain. No wonder the US is trying to make the country a laboratory, which contains a collection of pre-strains, and not only “fighting” and research. Usually, such laboratories are some harmless name of the module (as a ‘laboratory Lugar” in Georgia), which is not formally affiliated with the Pentagon, but is subordinated to the Center for disease control.

“A number of genetic variations between races do exist, that gives the basis to speak about the possibility of developing “selective weapons”

Expensive and stupid

Organized terrorism, as we understand it, does not yet have access to biological materials and to obtain them only by theft. Independently to build the lab and make it work at least a couple of years to produce a sustainable material without government support, now nobody can. Of course, there are countries, for example, in the Persian Gulf, which offer free financial means in sufficient quantities, but lack the required intellectual resources.

Experts in martial strains now, perhaps, the most guarded and closed caste of people as the nuclear physicists. Their lives will not envy, isolation, and control over behaviour starts with the first courses of the Institute. Tightly controlled and the scientific process, including the international exchange of information, which is not always consistent with the highest principles of science, but is justified from the point of view of security.

From this scheme falls just outright psychopaths or mountebanks. But the charlatans are addicted to pseudo-scientific projects, like the definition of “historic of the genome.” But the motivation of the psychopath is unpredictable by definition, there can be anything from the banal pride to attempts to indicate power on “flaws” in the system of security in this unpredictable way, like sending letters with white powder. It single-psychopaths, unrecognized geniuses – the most real threat in the field of bacteriological weapons, and no organized international terrorism. Theoretically, such a schizoid arrogant can buy ISIS*, but he will need lots of consumables and a few years of hard work, and the sudden interest in some or Qatari offshore company “export-import” to purchases of suspicious materials immediately attract the attention of the security services.

Aside from the threat of organized terrorism, the danger may come from some natural event or “attack fool” – attempts to take possession of biological materials from persons, do not understand. They’ll kill themselves and everyone around just because they do not know how to store, move and use biological materials. A clear example of radical environmental groups operating on the principle of “kill the beaver – save a tree”. These, having read popular scientific literature in half, Sartre and Che Guevara, in theory and really is able to capture some “laboratory Lugar” in the same Georgia that is protected forever sleepy Mingrelian police. So that in this respect Hollywood (see “the Twelve monkeys”) is not lying, but only dramatically exaggerates the threat.

Long been evident that the military use of biological weapons is pointless. Bombing enemy anthrax does not necessarily give an absolute defeat, rather it is a psychological attack. The attacking party, as it demonstrates a willingness to break all the rules not only of war but also human notions of good and evil. No wonder during the Second world war to combat the use of such weapons is the most close only Japan, which, if we leave aside political correctness, the fascist and racist view of the world was more terrible than German. During the initial stage of the lesion to diagnose anthrax is difficult.

Therefore, the development of biological weapons was gradually curtailed not only by the Soviet Union, but almost all the big States, and small for such had neither the resources nor the capacity. People were always aware of the danger of such an enterprise, and the former biological weapons laboratory became the laboratory of the fight against these weapons. The practice of creating “parallel strains” – fighting and neutralizing – was very useful.

The same American experts emphasize that the selected material from the Sverdlovsk anthrax genome is almost not changed, modified a few of the alleles that did not affect the combat qualities of the dispute. Still need to figure out what exactly the effect was achieved by Soviet scientists, but the bacterium was not “aggressive”, otherwise the casualties would have been much more. Therefore, in the Sverdlovsk laboratory could not deal with the approaching Apocalypse, and “conservation” of disputes, ensuring stable and less expensive storage. Such work is very important not only in military but also in domestic terms. For example, the recent outbreak of anthrax on the Yamal Peninsula would not have happened if the cattle treated with the purpose to strengthen the arguments. The disease survives in the ground thanks to disputes, and by making the outer shell more solid and resistant, it is possible to avoid the consequences of incidents such as excavator bucket or unusually warm summer. Paradoxically, the fact: to kill the bacteria is impossible, but in reality they are stable, that is, in fact, to preserve, and this preserve is to defuse it.

Only for black

All modern bacteriological development mainly involve manipulation of genes of bacteria and viruses. Traditional production of antibodies and creation of drugs on their basis the method is cheaper, but risky. To determine the source of disease, the so-called “patient zero”, as the secretion of antibodies takes time, which is in an epidemic or, God forbid, a pandemic is not. Genetic manipulation require completely different money conditions and qualifications of the staff, but give a more accurate result.

In recent decades, developments in the fighting strains studied literally only a handful of labs affiliated with the States, whose ideology is theoretically allow their use. Moreover, we do not have walked on terrorism and unconventional warfare. Promising were referred to as “selective” biological weapons, that is, those who call out defeat at only one selected group of the population. This whole field of genetic research, most of which is pseudoscience. So, recently gained popularity of the study of the so-called “chromosome codes designed to isolate the unique component of one or another of the dominant system of chromosomes in entire peoples. Very quickly it became clear that all this is typical of quackery, but wanting to figure out the genetic origin of the Nations” from this have not diminished.

Another thing is that a number of genetic variations between races and even within them do exist, which gives theoretical grounds to speak about the possibility of developing “selective weapons.” Of course, mostly this topic is for lovers of conspiracy theories and Hollywood screenwriters, but the smoke without fire does not happen. Many continue in this direction progressed, surprisingly, South Africa. “Project “Zulu” was the most secretive in the history of existence of this state, even the creation of its own nuclear weapons was not associated with this level of secrecy. In a nutshell, it consisted in the creation of artificial virus that could selectively affect the dominant African peoples have a common ethnic origin and, accordingly, the total genotypic set (actually Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Tswana, Shona, Sotho, Swazi), but not to affect the white population and the Hottentots.

The final results on the “Project “Zulu” is unknown, as the fate of the scientists in this project participated. At this stage of his development did not exist a developed system for genetic studies, as it is now, but there was a clear understanding that genetic features can be used in convenzioni military action. A scientific basis was the study of the beginning of the last century, when it was revealed inherited genetic disease peculiar to only a few relatively closed ethnic groups in Europe. From a medical point of view, this has a complex explanation, but the General case is that individual ethnic groups are not so well break down some enzymes, as is characteristic of most homo sapiens, or have a genetic tendency not to respond to a number of proteins and enzymes. It is a hereditary genetic disease, as a rule, with 100% mortality, while extremely rare and difficult to diagnose.

Ethnic group, long formed in isolation or in exceptional climatic conditions, and does have a set of unique genetic variance. For example, it is Ashkenazi Jews, Greeks and the peoples of West Africa. In this formulation of the question does not even hint at racism, it is sad the circumstances of the formation of these Nations in the first place, the isolation and terrible conditions of life – what today we would call the influence of climatic environment. For example, the syndrome Marina or disease Tay-Sachs (especially the latter) are genetic in nature and are anchored to the ethnic group that can easily be used for military purposes. While Ashkenazi was and most studied in medical and genetic terms by the people, which gave the opportunity to identify nearly two dozen specific genetic diseases. But any data that once took place successful attempt to create a conditional bacterium that can cause the desired mutation artificially, no. And Vice versa – the medicine is not yet able to “fix” defective genes to treat disease is still in the development stage of the fetus.

The threat of biological weapons exists just because there is the weapon itself, even in conserved and strictly protected species. To allocate it in a special direction of the terrorist threat is premature, the benefit of this is the case when the threat is easy to calculate in advance. To track down a psycho in a truck in nice is difficult, and to detect signs of activity when trying to create a fighting the virus, on the contrary, very simple. While there is worldwide consensus regarding the impossibility of using and development of new strains and is constantly working on creating antidotes. And the factor of psychopathic individuals exist in all high technology areas.

* Organization in respect of which the court accepted entered into legal force decision on liquidation or ban the activities on the grounds stipulated by the Federal law “On countering extremist activity”


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