Jan 17, 2021


Q. What is Bioterrorism?

Bioterrorism: History, Advantages and Weaponry

It covers a quite broad spectrum of concerns, from catastrophic terrorism with mass casualties, to microevents using low technology but producing civil unrest, disruption, disease, disabilities and death. 


Q. What are the types of Bioterrorism Agents?

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention grades the biological agents and diseases that have the potential to be used as weapons into three categories based on the ability and extent of damage . These are:

Biological warfare agents: History and modern-day relevance - ScienceDirect

Q. What are some of the deadliest biological weapons that have been used till date?

1. Anthrax

Anthrax which is caused by bacteria named Bacillus Anthracis. It is one of the deadliest agents to be used as a biological weapon. It has been used with food, water, spray, powders. It is completely tasteless and odourless.

2. Botulinum Toxin

BT is caused by naturally found bacteria named Clostridium Botulinum. It can be used by contaminating food and water. It was known to be used by Japan on Prisoners of War (POW) during the occupation of Manchuria.

3. Francisella Tularensis

This was used as a biological weapon against the Nazi Army of Germany by the Soviet Union Army in the Battle of Stalingrad of World War II.

4. Aflatoxin

Iraq had produced and deployed different weapons armed with Aflatoxin. It was noted by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in 1995. However, it was destroyed during the Gulf War.

Q. What are the dangers of Bioterrorism?

  1. Biological agents are attractive tools of terrorism as they are relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain. In contrast of accessing functional chemical, radiological or nuclear materials, biological materials are produced easily.
  2. The international terrorist attacks are changing over the past years towards the use of more deadly weapons for massive civil disruption. Some group of terrorists now show interest in using chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) materials in order to cause mass casualties
  3. The virus can be easily disseminated.
  4. It can cause widespread fear and panic beyond the actual physical damage it can cause.
  5. The risk of massive destruction of life is too high.
  6. They can be used in very minute quantities but the effects are life-risking.
  7. Their presence can’t be detected faster as they take time to develop and cause widespread and disastrous spread.

Q. What are the targets of Bioterrorism?

  1. Bioterrorism have devastating effect on the environment. 
  2. Potential targets for bioweapons are water supplies and water distribution systems as it is the critical need of every ecosystem health and also to the smooth functioning of a commercial and economy sector of our industrialized society. 
  3. Agriculture is another perfect target for bioterrorism which uses highly contagious, virulent and resistant agents that result in economic hardship on countries. 
  4. In addition, animals, plants and birds could also be targeted for biological threat generation.
  5. According to World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 80% of pathogens used for biowarfare are of animal origin and 60% of human pathogens are zoonotic. Furthermore, there are many animal foreign agents (foot and mouth disease virus, Bacillus anthracis and African swine fever virus) that are readily available in the nature and also from commercial sources, which require little effort in handling and dispersing  these pathogens.

Q. What are the challenges from Non-State Actor? 

Bioterrorism and India

Q. What are some of steps taken by government in this regard?

  1. To keep India ready to counter a bioterrorism attack, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has proposed a model instrument where participation of both government and private sectors is a sine qua non to defeat any such attack. 
  2. In India, several nodal ministries have been earmarked for dealing with epidemics caused by bioterrorism. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is a specialised force constituted under MHA to deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attacks. It consists of 12 battalions, three each from the BSF and CRPF and two each from CISF, ITBP and SSB.
  3. Defense Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) is the India’s primary biodefense laboratory of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). It is mainly involved in the development of defense against malicious biological, chemical as well as toxicological materials.
  4. India signed the BTWC with some reservations on January 15, 1973 and ratified the treaty a year and a half later on July 15, 1974. It was one of the few countries to have expressed its reservations, which included:
  5. The government of India would like to reiterate in particular its understanding that the objective of the Convention is to eliminate biological and toxin weapons, thereby excluding completely the possibility of their use.
  6. The exemption in regard to biological agents or toxins, which would be permitted for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes would not, in any way, create a loophole in regard to the production or retention of biological and t oxin weapons.
  7. Any assistance which might be furnished under the terms of the Convention would be of medical or humanitarian nature and in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  8. The ‘Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies’ (SCOMET) guidelines of India provide stringent export product control list that include goods, technologies and services related to dual- use items.
  9. India has also revised ‘International Health Regulations’ (IHR) that came into force in June 2007 which account for rapid detection and countermeasures of health emergencies.

Q. What are the Global efforts?

Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention 1972.

The Biological Weapons Convention prohibits :

  1. The development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, and production of:
  2. Biological agents and toxins of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;
  3. Weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
  4. The transfer of or assistance with acquiring the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles described above.