Biological Weapons and Their Potential Use in Terrorist Attacks

This research analyzes the likelihood for terrorists to use biological armaments in carrying out their terror attacks. It highlights the allegations of current tendencies in terrorism for the imminent use of biological agents and why the terrorists may be encouraged to use them. The essay is going to give a detailed discussion on the potential use of a biological weapon in carrying out a terror attack and ways that can be used to prevent such attacks. Information will be laid about the kind of biological weapons that can be used to cause maximum harm to their victims. Biological attacks are in some other words referred to as "germ warfare," biological weapons require the use of infectious agents or toxins that are biological in nature. This can include fungi, bacteria, and viruses. These biological agents are used to incapacitate or kill humans, plants or animals as part of a war act.

Terrorists can use many biological warfare agents such as protozoa, virus, bacteria, fungi, or toxins produced by these micro-organisms, these agents will have a potential of causing diseases in man, plants or animals, in the case of deliberately using them to attack a certain location (Gillis, 2017).  The agents are capable of causing large-number of morbidity, mortality, and can incapacitate a large number of population. The effect of these biological agents if released can take place in a very short time and their effects may last for a long period of time. The terrorist attacks via biological agents can be overt or covert and they are different from those used in conventional weapons by means of several properties which are unique. Their effects are not immediately and require few times ranging from hours to weeks to start noticing the first symptoms appear in the affected people. To carry out these attacks need the release of a small amount of viable material and have a potential of replicating themselves and be an origin of a disease outbreak in are habited by people and their animals. The capability of viruses to replicate themselves when inside a living cell of a human being, plants and animals means that they can be used to cause epidemics. They are composed of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins and have a potential of multiplying and spreading much quickly (Gillis, 2017). In the event of a biological terror attack, an extremist can use several methods to achieve their goals. One of the methods which can be used is that of biological agents causing disease such as brucellosis. This can be achieved through the use of any of the four species of Brucella. These pathogens can be introduced to animals deliberately. Human will get infections often as a result of drinking unpasteurized milk or eating raw animal products. In the dry preparations, the bacteria may remain active for many couples of years and spread by aerosol needs only limited organisms. These aerosols can be released by a terrorist in some designated area such as bus stations and another clouded area like airport terminals. The consequences of this are that many people will be infected and since they are traveling to other locations this spread of the pathogen will be a success. Animals for slaughter could be used by terrorist to spread diseases such as anthrax. The meat which will be sold in slaughterhouses will then be contaminated by toxins of this anthrax. The unsuspecting population will be at great risk of getting infections after consuming the product. Dead animals which are contaminated with biological agents can also be used in terror attacks. This can be done by contaminating the water systems of a target population (Vilcinskas, 2015). The people will drink the water and if not properly treated then the motive of the terrorist will be greatly achieved. 

Preventing biological attacks

A variety of weaponized lethal biological microbes are designed to be effective as aerosols that could cause infections when a target personnel breathes them. For this purpose, the main-effective defense mechanism against these agents is a good protective mask which is equipped with filters capable of filtering spores, bacteria, and viruses bigger than one micron (Vilcinskas, 2015). Another effective way is that of designing and putting in place effective biological weapon sensors. The developed sensor should be in a position to raise an alarm to allow personnel to put on masks prior to exposure, move into protective garments, and move inside, maybe into toxic-free collective protection facility.  The medical teams should then without wasting time go in to treat and check those personals who may have been exposed to the biological agents.

            Since September 11, 2001, a civil defense which is responsible for fighting biological weapons has immensely been improved in the United States (Vilcinskas, 2015). In order to fight and prevent biological attacks, successful civil defense regarding major attacks from biological terrorism requires that substantial undertaking is made in training of responders, vaccines, sensors, warning systems, medicines, and public education and not to forget planning of emergency situations which may occur.

Vaccines should be developed, tested and approval made. Long-term medical research should be done to examine the possibility of emerging with supplements and vaccines that, when given, should raise the response of the individual’s immune system to guard against the entire spectrum of predictable biological warfare agents (Jansen et al., 2014).   

Special vaccines should be manufactured, analyzed, tested, and approved to counter-respond to two most potentially lethal biological microbes that can also be in many cases easily weaponized: smallpox and anthrax. For example, the American government should possess enough smallpox vaccine to cover the entire American citizens and sufficient anthrax vaccine to immunize at least every member of the United States military personnel.

Other additional ways of preventing possible biological attacks are through responsiveness and education, laboratory analysis, creating a system for distribution of therapeutics, hospital sensitization as well as scientific research (Jansen et al., 2014). In awareness and education, the infectious diseases community should be well informed on the possibilities of biological attacks. ID professionals are the ones called on regarding any possibilities of an abnormal disease outbreak. They are involved in the day to day diagnosis and treatment of people with flu-like symptoms, fever, pneumonia, and rash; therefore, by putting this into mind, ID professional will be amongst the medical team most probable to identify the ailments caused by biological armaments. Training curricula and proficient education should be a must so as to better equip them with the ability to recognize various diseases such as smallpox, plague, or anthrax which can be used for bioterrorism (Jansen et al., 2014). Enhancing good working cooperation between medically based ID professionals (e.g., hospital epidemiologists) and health department-based ID clinicians is a vital goal toward the improvement of the competence of both professional in detecting and responding to bioterrorist occurrences. Laboratories should also be in a position to diagnose and recognize unusual diseases pattern (Vilcinskas, 2015).


Gillis, M. (2017). Biological weapons. Disarmament: A Basic Guide, 57-62.

Jansen, H. J., Breeveld, F. J., Stijnis, C., " Grobusch, M. P. (2014). Biological warfare, bioterrorism, and biocrime. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 20(6), 488-496.

Vilcinskas, A. (2015). Pathogens as biological weapons of invasive species. PLoS Pathogens, 11(4), e1004714.

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