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History of Biowarfare Part III - Now For Something Completely Horrific

From a historical perspective, anthrax is probably the most widely used bio-threat known to humans. Some scholars now believe it to be the nasty soot “morain”, spoken of in the book of Exodus and may also be considered a likely candidate for the “burning wind of plague” that begins Homer’s Illad. Anthropologists have recently determined that Yersina Pestis is without a doubt the plague virus behind the Black Death. If these accusations are correct then its’ safe to say anthrax might be the most well recorded bio-threat to date.

As a weapon, anthrax lives up to its reputation. Those infected with the substance will develop ulcerative puss filled lesions; severe respiratory infections and death within two to three days in most cases. The victims also become infectious to those close to them allowing this nasty toxin to spread like wildfire. Anthrax is a bacterium and can become dormant in the ground in a spore type state for long periods of time before springing back to life and re-infecting all over again. In this regard it is not much different then a mold or fungus.

The use of anthrax bacteria in ancient military campaigns as been recorded going back to biblical times. Some barbarians stooped so low as to use the diseased bodies of its’ victims to poison wells and food supplies, and even to catapult them over the walls of fortified cities under siege. In this century combatants on all sides of conflict carried out the military use of anthrax during World War I. By the time we get to World War II, biowarfare becomes actively financed by government officials who, taking a lesson from history, begin to seek out more advanced ways to exploit deadly toxin and other forms of bio-threats inert potency. Reports are said to prove that allied efforts in Canada, the United States, and Britain sought to develop anthrax-based weapons against Germany, but apparently this was never fully realized.

The growing concern for a substance like anthrax being used on heavily populated areas today is nothing to be taken with a grain of salt. When United Nations inspector’s toured Iraq’s bio-weapons facilities after the Gulf War, they discovered, according to some sources, that the Iraqi’s reportedly had produced up to 10,000 liters of bio-weapons grade anthrax, though some dispute this claim. But a sobering reality of the potential of an attack surfaced when the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, the same peace-loving group who was responsible for releasing Sarin gas in the Tokyo Subway system, was later discovered to have been close to developing anthrax-based weapons. This group was seeking nothing less then total world domination. Yes, you read that correctly … “Total World Domination“.

After the anthrax attack that followed five days after 9/11, killing five people and infecting 17 others, it became apparent that the best way for a nation to defend itself from such threats was to create a level of preparedness that would limit the impact of this type of terrorist tactic or eliminate the threat completely. It was then determined that one of the most important factors in limiting this kind of damage by such a heinous act would be in the timing that it would take to identify the what type of biological threats were involved. This information would allow first responders to make rapid and reliable decisions that could mean the difference between saving millions of lives vs. the unthinkable horror of a wide spread plague that could devastate vast numbers of a population. The solution to this dilemma of rapid detection and response would be found in the science of biotechnology.

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In order for first responders to know what bio-threat was being presented to them upon receiving that first call to quickly contain the situation, they would require some sort of device that could identify the biological threat as close to the moment of it’s first outbreak as possible. Up until 9/11 no such device existed that could adequately be labeled as rapid detection. The answer to this problem would come in the form of a device known as a chromatographic immunoassay, also known as a hand held assay (HHA). One of the first and best of this kind of test to hit the market was called the BADD single detection test, this test would then later evolve into a multi-threat detection test called the Pro-Strip, allowing for the first time, one test that would give a first responder the ability to read up to 5 threats (Anthrax, Botulinum, Plague, Ricin and SEB toxins) with just one revolutionary device. Created by researches at AdVnt Biotechnologies in Phoenix AZ. these two devices are still being used by military, first response teams and CBRNE teams worldwide due in large part to the consistent reliability, ease of use and cost effective dependability.

As horrific as it must have been to be on the receiving end of bio-terrorism in times past, new, current technologies now exist today that was not available during the times past. With the threat of biological attacks growing more realistic, the likelihood that a highly trained and prepared first response team will have the capabilities to move in quickly, ascertain the situation with rapid, reliable knowledge of the threat involved, downgrade the event from the potential wide spread catastrophe to a much limited and highly contained incident is far more plausible now then at any time in the history of the world.

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ANCIENT BIOTHREATS part II

It is the year 184 BC and you are a soldier on a Pergamene Ship headed to Carthage to confront the opposing forces of that mega barbarion superstar known as Hannibal. As you near your destination and prepare to put all the years of your razor sharp warfare training and barbarian bashing expertise to the test, your are focused on how you are going to show this tyrant what a real warrior is all about. When suddenly, and without warning, something in the corner of your eye blocks out the sun for just a tic and catches your attention. then CRASH.

A large object clay pot shatters on the deck of your ship. Your first reaction is to grab some water or a blanket fearing the enemy has attacked your vessel with a pot of burning oil and coal, but instead of flames and smoke spreading on the deck of the ship, you are shocked to discover that lying among broken shards of clay fragments are hundreds of poisonous snakes of various varieties slithering and swarming all over the deck in all directions. Cobra’s sliding under the feet of those beloved slaves chained to the oars. Large Black Mamba’s wrapping themselves around post, and disrupting the captain’s afternoon tea. These fanged vermin are angry and not feeling very loved. Why should they? After being packed in a cramped pot like moldy roman grain and tossed through the air like the heads of Roman disidents at a gladiator free for all, these snakes have a serious attitude problem. Fast and vicious, within seconds they have already have bitten more then half the crew. The few remaining stoic warriors have decided to take their chances in the shark infested ocean waters and bravely abandon ship.

Before you can join in this decision to run away, you find yourself surrounded by a swarm of fanged attitude and the only thing you know to do besides scream like a captured carpathian in hot boiling oil is to start beating these misplaced reptilians with your trusty sword. But these snakes are fast and three of them have already gotten a few bites in on your sandal-clad ankles while several others are squirming closer. As the poision starts to set in, confusion and frustration starts to slowly give way to a sinking feeling swimming around in your head as neurotoxin courses through your veins and nausea and pain begin to register shades of Elysian Fields. Your last thoughts is the realization of why you hate snakes. Let there be no doubt about it, Biowarfare is a nasty business and not for the mortally challenged.

With the passage of time comes change, instead of clay pots, biowarfare can come in the form of a dirty bomb, a discarded package, a letter sent by the mailman, the happy fellow you have known since high school or a misplaced clay pot full of scorpions sitting unnoticed on the promenade deck of a large luxury liner. Strange has it may seem, some things never change. Although most modern bioterrorist find bravery in not confronting their enemies face to face, it is safe to say they too are afraid of snakes. Though proven to be a formidable weapon, snakes have now slithered aside and have been replaced by prayer books and lab coats. Clay shards now look like powders or toxic gasses and instead of a few hundred crewmembers on a long wooden war vessel; the victims are now in shopping malls, school yards and sports arenas can now number in the tens of thousands. Let there be not doubt about it, these are not the good times.

Now lets take a look at that sword and the improvements that can only come with the blessings of time. Back in the day, the sword would have held back a few of the vermin, but even the craftiest war trained soldier would have found himself at a great disadvantage. Now the snakes are powders and liquids and a simple 2-inch by 3-inch plastic hand held device and an easy to use plastic buffer bottle that can test suspicious bio threat residuals with given results in less then ten minutes. With that type of knowledge in hand, first responders will be able to make valued decisions that can save the lives of millions, making it better then a sword and much easier to carry.

Though not designed to ward off a pot full and angry vipers, AdVnt Biotechnologies newly extended line of Bio Warfare detection devices are both time and field tested to support bio threat first responders with rapid need to know information that many of us rather not know. Detecting threats for Anthrax, Ricin, SEB, Botulinum, Plaque or Tularemia, AdVnt’s BADD single test and Pro-Strip Rapid Screening System are the tools to have when confronted with a real-time biowarfare situation. And with the addition of the new Tularemia test device, the blanket of threat detection as spread even wider.

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