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Biological threats: present and future Dr Diego Buriot Erice, Italy 24 August 2010 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Biological threats: present and future Dr Diego Buriot Erice, Italy 24 August 2010 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Biological threats: present and future Dr Diego Buriot Erice, Italy 24 August

2 The Full Spectrum of Biological Risks Terence Taylor, International Council for the Life Sciences Natural Accidental Intentional 18 February Biological Risk Naturally Occurring Pandemic Reemerging Infectious Diseases Unintended Outcomes of Research Laboratory Accidents Lack of Awareness Policy Choices Crime & Counterfeit Drugs Sabotag e BW Terrorism State

3 Biological threats are an increasingly serious and complex threat to national security. Knowledge, equipment, and pathogens required to construct a biological weapon are now globally dispersed. Historical evidence confirms the effectiveness of biological weapons, on both a small and on a large scale. Multiple assessments and reports from the U.S. government, the World Health Organization (WHO), and others have concluded that, absent a rapid and robust response, a biological weapons attack could results in thousands of casualties. Extant intention to use biological weapons against the U.S. and other countries, as recently voiced by terrorists and radical environmentalist organizations. Barriers to the development have fallen quickly as necessary technologies advance and grow more accessible. 3

4 Soviet biological weapons installations Source : Global Security Org. 4

5 Biological weapons use by small organizations – USA – Rajneeshee bioterror attack Followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh attempted to control a local election by incapacitating the local population. This was done by infecting salad bars in eleven restaurants with Salmonella typhimurium bacteria in the city of The Dalles, Oregon. The attack infected 751 people with severe food poisoning. However, there were no fatalities Japan – Aum Shinrikyo anthrax release in Kameido The religious group Aum Shinrikyo released anthrax in Tokyo. Eye witnesses reported a foul odor. The attack was a total failure, infecting not a single person. This case shows how difficult it is to aerolize anthrax spores in high concentration – USA- Anthrax Attacks In September and October 2001, letters laced with infectious anthrax were delivered to news media offices and the U.S Congress. The letters killed 5. Tests on the anthrax strain used in the attack pointed to a domestic source, possibly from the biological weapons program. 5

6 Assessing the Threat and the US Government’s Ability to Respond The U.S. intelligence community has assessed the threat of an attack on the U.S. using biological weapons, and they have determined that the threat of a biological attack on the U.S. is current and real. 14 Yet, as noted by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (the Commission) in their World at Risk report released in December 2008, the U.S. remains vulnerable and unprepared to deal with such an attack. The World at Risk report concluded that, unless the international community acts resolutely and with great urgency, there is a high likelihood that a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) would be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by The Commission emphasized that the weapon is more likely to be biological than nuclear, and the Director of National Intelligence publicly agreed with the report’s threat assessment, saying, ‘‘We [the intelligence community] assess biological as the more likely and it’s better than an even chance in the next five years that an attack by one of those weapons systems will be conducted in some place on the globe....’’ In addition, the Commission concluded that, to date, the U.S. government has placed greater emphasis on programs to prevent nuclear terrorism, and that the government ‘‘should make the more likely threat— bioterrorism—a higher priority.’’ 6

7 Main issues Can we control biological materials or information in ways that slow biological weapons development or use? Can we improve transparency among countries on biological weapons issues? Can we strengthen moral and behavioral norms against biological weapons? Can we improve intelligence and interdiction? Can we improve surveillance and international collaboration on infectious disease monitoring and response? Can we improve forensics, attribution, or deterrence? Can we strengthen biodefense as a means of dissuasion? 7

8 The nuclear nonproliferation and prevention model does not apply to biological weapons Primary goals of nuclear nonproliferation and prevention efforts: – Secure fissile material around the world. – Secure highly technical information about nuclear weapons development. – Prevent the emergence of new nuclear states and nuclear testing through inspections, aerial reconnaissance, and sophisticated seismic, hydroacoustic, radionuclide, and other forms of monitoring. – Prevent the divergence of nuclear fuel into the weapons cycle. – Maintain current and seek new treaty arrangements (NPT, Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, CTBT) in pursuit of these policy goals. – Maintain deterrence through nuclear forensics, attribution, and the promise of retribution. 8

9 Biodefense labs 400 research entities and individuals cleared in the US to have access to select agents which include anthrax, smallpox and Ebola virus – Physical measures: GGG – Security risk assessment process (databases of criminals immigrations and terrorists) 9

10 New developments: Scientific Advances Could Lower Bar for Biological Attack Current technologies enable aerosol dissemination of biological weapons Advances in genomics: beyond traditional agents Synthetic biology: inert ingredients and digital information 10

11 Scientific and technological advances that allow more biological research experiments to be conducted outside of institutional settings are raising fears that terrorists could also find it easier to produce and weaponize disease materials Lack of expertise and access to the advanced technology required for pathogen development have been seen as key barriers to extremists' ability to develop and use a biological weapon. Just 10 years ago, only a small number of facilities had the technology and knowledge to conduct sophisticated biological research. Now, however, amateur collaborative biology efforts have emerged that allow hobby scientists to exchange insights on activities such as isolation of genetic substances and constructing efficient centrifuges. This movement has been supported by relatively inexpensive equipment that can be used at home. “If students can order any (genetic sequence) online, somebody could try to make the Ebola virus," Craig Venter, who produced one of the world's first synthetic organisms, said in July. "We are limited more by our imagination now than any technological limitations," Venter said. 11 Wall Street Journal Aug

12 DIY Bio is an organization dedicated to making biology an accessible pursuit for citizen scientists and amateur biologists who value openess and safety. The do it yourself movement is rapidly expanding around the world as evident by the map below depicting local groups involved in the movement. 12

13 Science community must engage in governance of powerful knowledge 13

14 International treaties and agreements The BWC is the first treaty to ban an entire class of weapons. While it upholds a strong moral norm, some nations have flagrantly disregarded it. This has led to an attempt to create a verification regime, which failed in Many experts believe that, unlike nuclear weapons, verification for biological weapons is not possible. The IHR was originally intended to minimize disruption of trade in times of disease emergencies. In 2005, theWHO revised the IHR, transforming the agreement to serve as a means of enhancing transparency about disease outbreaks among nations. Under the IHR, nations are required to report to the WHO an event constituting a ‘‘public health emergency of international concern.’’ UNSCR 1540 aims to ensure that no state or nonstate actor is a source or beneficiary of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation. Under full implementation, the actions of each state are intended to strengthen international standards relating to the export of sensitive materials and to ensure that nonstate actors do not gain access to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, their means of delivery, or related materials. 14

15 G-8 Nonproliferation Program Faces Uncertain Future Money could be directed to help developing nations eyeing biotechnology as a means of growth to bring their biological security standards up to levels established by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Program managers must look beyond the "guards, guns and gates" that characterize today's nonproliferation approaches. Engaging private industry in a way that would incent them in the biological area to engage in more rigorous self-regulation. 15

16 Capacity to respond rapidly and effectively: essential elements of biodefense Care for the sick Protect those who are well Minimize social and economic disruption Assign attribution for attack 16

17 Identification of bioweapons Health care providers and public health officers are among the first lines of defense The growing threat of biowarfare agents and bioterrorism has led to the development of specific field tools that perform on-the-spot analysis and identification of encountered suspect materials. – One such technology, being developed by researchers from the Laurence Livemore National Laboratory (LLNL), employs a "sandwich immunoassay", in which fluorescent dye-labeled antibodies aimed at specific pathogens are attached to silver and gold nanowires. – In the Netherlands, the company TNO has designed Bioaerosol Single Paricle Recognition Equipment (BiosparQ). This system would be implemented into the national response plan for bioweapons attacks in the Netherlands. – Researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel are developing a different device called the BioPen, essentially a "Lab-in-a-Pen", which can detect known biological agents in under 20 minutes using an adaptation of the ELISA, a similar widely employed immunological technique, that in this case incorporates fiber optics. 17

18 Decontamination challenges - Unclear roles and responsibilities - Research not coordinated - Research underfunded - Resources and methods lacking for sampling, testing and analysis - Unresolved scientific issues - Too few trained personnel - Inadequate guidance for building owners 18

19 Conclusions As bioscience and biotechnology advance, the bioterror threat will grow Prevention is not only gates, guns and guards. Nothing will be done without support from the scientific community Preparedness is key to biodefense Global capacity to mitigate bioterror attack could greatly diminish the consequences of natural epidemics of infectious diseases 19

20 Useful links biosecurity.org/website/resources/ biosecurity.org/website/resources/ 20

21 Questions for the group Why biorisk’perception is so different among countries? How to assess it? How to communicate it? As scientists’ education about potential dual use nature of most biotechnology equipment, facilities, and activities is so important, is there a role for the World Federation of Scientists? 21

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23 Biological warfare in history 1346 Tartar leader Khan Janibeg is said to have thrown plague corpses into the city of Kaffa to infect the inhabitants Japan experiments with Chinese prisoners of war and uses biological weapons in attacks on Chinese towns during World War II UK military researchers perform tests with anthrax bombs on the Scottish island of Gruinard, rendering the island off limits for people for 50 years. Until 1969 The US maintained a huge offensive bioweapons program that produced a variety of agents Boris Yeltsin admits the former Soviet Union had a large biological weapons program. A 1979 anthrax accident near Sverdlosk cost 100 lives UNSCOM finds final proof for an offensive biowarfare programme in Iraq. 23

24 What Is Decontamination? Decontamination is the process of removing or inactivating a hazardous substance (in this case, a biological agent) from contaminated environments or surfaces, including skin, clothing, buildings, air, and water, in order to prevent adverse health events from occurring. Remediation following an attack with a biological weapon will involve a number of different phases of response, including: Sampling, Testing, and Analysis: During this phase, sampling of the suspected contaminated area is done to detect the presence of the biological agent and to characterize the extent and levels of contamination. These samples must be tested, either rapidly on the scene (if the technology is available) or sent to a laboratory. Containment and Mitigation: In this phase, scientists, responders, and decision makers in the government assess the risks associated with the attack, including the risks of spreading the agent through movement, re-aerosolization, and other methods of dispersion. This risk assessment will help determine decontamination methods and timelines. Decontamination, Confirmatory Sampling, and Testing: During this phase, decontamination methods and technologies would be used to clean the contaminated area and dispose of contaminated materials. Cleanup criteria will need to be set and measured to determine when decontamination is complete and the area can be reinhabited. This also involves confirmatory sampling and may require re-decontamination procedures and further sampling and analysis. 24

25 Examples of Biological Agents of Concern and Their Stability in the Environment Bacillus anthracis (anthrax): very stable in most environments; risk of secondary aerosolization unknown. Brucella (brucellosis): stable in moist conditions. Burkholderia mallei (glanders): stable in water and moist conditions; unstable in dry conditions and UV exposure. Yersinia pestis (plague): unstable in the outdoor air; stable for years in soil and live tissues. Francisella tularensis (tularemia): stable in cold, moist conditions; stability following intentional aerosolization is uncertain. Coxiella burnettii (Q fever): stable for months on wood and sand. Variola major (smallpox): unstable: the virus would be nearly completely destroyed in the environment after 24 hours. Viral hemorrhagic fevers (Ebola, Marburg, etc.): unstable in their natural state; these viruses are not expected to persist in the environment. Botulinum toxin (botulism): relatively unstable, will degrade naturally in outdoor environments within a few days; stable for weeks in food and standing water. Ricin: stable in the environment but heat sensitive. 25

26 “The single most important failure in the history of forecasting has been grossly underestimating the impact of technology” Peter Schwartz in the art of the long vue 26

27 ADHERENCE TO AND COMPLIANCE WITH ARMS CONTROL, ON PROLIFERATION, AND DISARMAMENT AGREEMENTS AND COMMITMENTS, July 2010 Prepared by the U.S. Department of State Report Warns of Potential State Bioweapons Programs Tuesday, Aug. 10,


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