Fatal Dilemma: Using Clostridium botulinum as a Biological Weapon
Ever since the dawn of biotechnology, the world had to face a new dilemma: bioterrorism. Using biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc., bioterrorism attack aims to cause illness of death in people, animals, or plants as a method of warfare. Used throughout history, biological weapon serves as a pivotal role in disarming an army.
Botulism toxin, known for the most toxic substance in the biological world, has been used throughout history as a biological weapon. The bacteria Clostridium botulinum causes botulism causes botulism disease, which is a serious paralytic illness that strikes all age groups. The clinical forms of botulism include foodborne botulism, infant botulism, and wound botulism. Botulism, if left untreated, is fatal; however, even treatment with antiserum can not provide full recovery.
Botulism is rare a disease. Therefore, if anyone is diagnosed with foodborne botulism, investigation of food supply must be carried out promptly; for investigation of the botulism-diagnosed-individual's surrounding is the only method of detecting a potential bioterrorism attack.
With the continuous advancements in biomedicine follows a continuous proliferation of bioterrorism, which uses biological agents for malicious purposes (Anderson 2). More specifically, bioterrorism is a method of terrorism that intentionally releases or disseminates biological weapons that may be in natural occurring or human-modified form (Botulism- Definition). Although bioterrorism is considered as a recent dilemma, the use of biological weapon predates recorded history, during the ancient times where biological toxins were extracted from plants and animals and applied on darts and arrows to kill human enemies. Evidence of bioterrorism was also evident during the Medieval Wars, the earliest times of recorded history. The dead bodies that carried highly contagious diseases, such as smallpox and bubonic plague, were catapulted into besieged towns, where they quickly spread to civilians within the town walls (Hurlbert 4).
Usage of biological weapon reached its height during the 19th century world wars, as agents were used in all criminal, terrorist, or state-sponsored events (Anderson 20). Sprouted from the world wars, biological research programs for both offensive and defensive strategies have been developed by the United States, Britain, the former Soviet Union, Canada, and several other nations (Fong vii). However, attention has not been focused on the potential threats of biological warfare and bioterrorism until the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 and the anthrax crisis in Florida and New York City (Fong vii). Throughout history, biological warfare has played a significant role, as biological weapons, deliberately or inadvertently, in restricted and assisted armies over the centuries.
Advantages of biological weapons are that they are effective in spreading the...