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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2002;56:167-85. Epub 2002 Jan 30.

Bioterriorism: from threat to reality.

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Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Kentucky 40292, USA.


The fears and predictions of attacks with biological weapons, which were increasing at the close of the twentieth century, were transformed into reality not long after September 11, 2001, when several anthrax-laden letters were sent through the U.S. postal system. The attack challenged our medical preparedness and scientific understanding of the epidemiology of biothreat agents. It is fortunate that this was not a massive aerosol release that could have exposed hundreds of thousands. Rapid diagnoses and medical treatments limited casualties and increased survival rates, but tragically some individuals died of inhalational anthrax. Even as physicians tested new treatment regimes and scientists employed new ways of detecting anthrax and decontaminating the mail, new predictions were made for potentially even more devastating attacks with anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, botulism, or hemorrhagic fever viruses. Fear gripped the nation. Law enforcement sought to find the villain(s) who sent the anthrax letters and to deter future bioterrorist attacks. The biomedical community began to seek new ways of protecting against such future threats of bioterrorism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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