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Toxicon. 2013 Jul;69:131-42. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Jan 20.

Medical aspects of bio-terrorism.

Author information

  • 1Medical Toxicology Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad 91735-348, Islamic Republic of Iran. Mahdi.Balali-Mood@ncl.ac.uk

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Bioterrorism is a terrorist action involving the intentional release or dissemination of a biological warfare agent (BWA), which includes some bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi or biological toxins. BWA is a naturally occurring or human-modified form that may kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war or terrorism. BWA is a weapon of choice for mass destruction and terrorism, because of the incubation period, less effective amount than chemical warfare agents, easily distribution, odorless, colorless, difficult to detect, no need of specialized equipment for production and naturally distribution which can easily be obtained. BWA may be disseminating as an aerosol, spray, explosive device, and by food or water.

CLASSIFICATION:

Based on the risk for human health, BWAs have been prioritized into three categories of A, B and C. Category A includes microorganisms or toxins that easily spread, leading to intoxication with high death rates such as Anthrax, Botulism, Plague, Smallpox, Tularemia and Viral hemorrhagic fevers. Category B has lower toxicity with wider range, including Staphylococcal Entrotoxin type B (SEB), Epsilon toxin of Clostridium perfringens, Ricin, Saxotoxins, Abrin and Trichothecene mycotoxins. The C category includes emerging pathogens that could also be engineered for mass spread such as Hanta viruses, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, Nipah virus, the tick-borne encephalitis viruses, hemorrhagic fever viruses and yellow fever. CLINICAL MANIFESTATIONS OF BIOTOXINS IN HUMAN: Clinical features and severity of intoxication depend on the agent and exposed dose, route of entry, individual variation and environmental factors. Onset of symptoms varies from 2-24 h in Ricin to 24-96 h in Botulism. Clinical manifestations also vary from irritation of the eyes, skin and mucus membranes in T2 toxin to an acute flaccid paralysis of bilateral cranial nerve impairment of descending manner in botulism. Most of the pyrogenic toxins such as SEB produce the same signs and symptoms as toxic shock syndrome including a rapid drop in blood pressure, elevated temperature, and multiple organ failure.

MANAGEMENT:

There is no specific antidote or effective treatment for most of the biotoxins. The clinical management is thus more supportive and symptomatic. Fortunately vaccines are now available for most of BWA. Therefore, immunization of personnel at risk of exposure is recommended.

CONCLUSION:

Biotoxins are very wide and bioterrorism is a heath and security threat that may induce national and international problems. Therefore, the security authorities, health professional and even public should be aware of bioterrorism.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID:
23339855
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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