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Natl Med J India. 2001 Jul-Aug;14(4):225-30.

Bioterrorism: a threat for which we are ill prepared.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, All India Institution of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110029, India.


Of the weapons of mass destruction, the biological ones are the most feared and bioterrorism has become one of the most vicious threats to civilized society in recent times. Biological weapons have been sporadically used for centuries. Despite international regulations, there has been a global re-emergence of the threat of biological warfare. As many as 17 countries are suspected of either including or developing biological agents in their weapons programmes. In the past decade, a number of terrorist organizations with access to bioweapons technology have emerged. Current surveillance systems may be inadequate to detect biological attacks. The onset of illness is often delayed, thus the timing and location of such an event may be extremely difficult to identify. We are unfamiliar with most of the agents of biological warfare and are ill-equipped to handle the consequences of such an attack. In addition, there is no apparent coherent policy to handle a biological terrorist incident. Given the enormity of what is possible in the event of a biological attack, we must be prepared to detect, diagnose, epidemiologically characterize and respond appropriately to biological weapons. Of the potential biological weapons, smallpox and anthrax pose the greatest threats.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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