Texas Researchers Warn of Bioterrorism Threat

GLOBAL - A new report Texas A&M University analyses the threat of global bioterrorism.
calendar icon 2 August 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Around the globe, many nations are realising that the potential for bioterrorism is not just about the US, officials say.

And because an intentional introduction of bacteria, a virus or a toxin could happen anywhere, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is issuing a paper aimed at prevention, reports AgriLife from Texas A&M University.

Dr Neville Clarke, special assistant to the Texas A&M University System's vice chancellor of agriculture, said: "Any emerging country that is beginning to think about maintaining international trade needs to be aware of the potential for bioterrorism."

Dr Clarke is lead author of 'Bioterrorism: intentional introduction of animal disease', which appears in the OIE journal, Scientific and Technical Review.

First off, bioterrorism is not new.

The intentional introduction of animal disease dates to the Middle Ages when 'diseased carcasses and bodies were catapulted over enemy walls in attempts to induce sickness in humans or animals', Dr Clarke wrote with co-author Jennifer L. Rinderknecht, Texas AgriLife Research assistant.

Throughout time, similar practices ensued until 1975, when more than 160 countries at the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention agreed to prohibit biological warfare programmes, the article noted.

But, the authors say, evidence around the world indicates that the 'development of biological agents continues in some countries'.

Dr Clarke said that those farthest away from being prepared are the developing nations such as in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia. He said the article would be helpful for nations that are wanting to protect their markets as they grow globally.

The article discusses potential perpetrators and their methods, priority diseases, modern biology, trade and regulatory restraints as listed by the World Organisation for Animal Health, which is headquartered in Paris and known as OIE for Office International des Epizooties.

Dr Clarke pointed to the live animal and fresh meat restrictions on imports from Brazil that are in place because there are still pockets of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in that South American country.

He explained: "That impairs their ability to export to the US. Trade restriction is one of the most important underlying issues that face countries. That makes bioterrorism everyone's business."

While the article deals specifically with intentional introductions, Dr Clarke said the 'clean up and control is same' for either type event.

He added: "The only difference is in attribution. If an act is intentional, then the focus goes to finding out who did it."

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