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Sample 11 - Part 2
4 Pages - Social Sciences

Biological Agents and Bioterrorism, a Global Threat

1.2.2. Bioterrorism 

  • History 

The term bioterrorism can be considered as a novel term considering the current panorama, however, it is not; For this reason, the author emphasizes that history “is full of examples of the use of aggressive people of this nature for war purposes. There is evidence that several ancient civilizations used elements of biological origin during their military conflicts to obtain strategic advantages ”. 

In such a way, that like chemical weapons, the use of biological weapons does not owe its origin or rise to recent times, rather, its use dates back to past times, since as well expressed by great and recognized experts : 

The perverse idea of using infectious agents to achieve effects similar to those of the great epidemics has been considered by man for many years and there are descriptions in different periods of history, in many cases having disastrous effects despite the little advance of the Microbiology and related sciences and, of course, ignorance of Biotechnology. 

You can find many examples of the use of biological weapons in order to attack the enemy directly and indirectly, that is, polluting crops, water sources, emitting gases, among others. According to an researcher, the record on wars and the primitive beginning of these weapons has confirmed that they are very dangerous, restricting their manufacture, at the same time that those weapons that exist today have been destroyed, since the UN lists them as weapons. of mass destruction, even when they are different from conventional or nuclear weapons, but their destructive power is not related to their explosive force as is the case with conventional weapons. 

  • Concepts of Bioterrorism 

According to the main author, the term Bioterrorism originated in the United States, since terrorist attacks with biological material have been called this way for years; In a broader sense, the security entity conceptualizes bioterrorism, in such a way, it refers to the intentional release of a virus, bacteria, toxins or other pathogens with the aim of causing some type of disease to people, animals or plants, or in other cases, with the aim of causing death. In other words, bioterrorism is considered to be: 

(…) The intentional dissemination of biological agents or toxins to harm and cause death to civilians, animals or plants with the intention of intimidating or coercing a government or the civilian population in favor of political or social objectives. 

For his part, another notable author highlights the definition of bioterrorism as that “illegitimate use, or the threat of use, of microorganisms or toxins obtained from living organisms, to cause disease or death in humans, animals or plants, in order to intimidate to governments or societies to achieve ideological, religious or political objectives ”.

From the aforementioned definition, it is possible to understand the relationship that bioterrorist attacks share with «biological warfare», the use of biological weapons or unconventional weapons, and that they owe their power level to the capacity they have to infect and cause diseases to through the use of microorganisms or toxins derived from them. 

In this sense, with respect to what was expressed by the main author, bioterrorism supposes an impact just by pronouncing the word, since it can be understood as an evolution of terrorism, and of course it is; therefore, it may sound like something dangerous, and that “unfortunately these types of attacks are already a reality” that can be observed to a greater or lesser extent today. 

The confusion that exists around terrorism (conceptually speaking) has led to the concept of bioterrorism not having the desired clarity either, so the absence of a uniform definition of the concept in the international community limits the exercise of legal measures, such as Europe has tried in recent decades with terrorism. 

For this reason, the author legally expresses Bioterrorism, it is of the utmost importance, since if he wishes to fight effectively against this phenomenon, then he must be precise regarding its content, promoting the uniformity that the concept must have in the international community. In such a way, that legally it has not been possible to agree on a general definition of terrorism, and the absence of a universally agreed definition of the phenomenon, has generated that specialists and international actors “develop their own definitions, which has generated an enormous amount of proposals definition of terrorism and other “subtypes” of this scourge, such as Bioterrorism ”.

1.2.3. Pathogenic microorganisms 

According to (Gut Microbiota For Health, 2019), the pathogens are:

(…) Infectious agents that can cause illness in their host. This term is normally used to describe microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, among others. These agents can disrupt the normal physiology of plants, animals, and humans.

Taking into account the previous definition, it is appropriate to define microorganisms with the aim of having a global conception of the term: 

  • Bacteria: 

Bacteria are unicellular microorganisms that reproduce by binary fission. Most are free-living, except for some that are obligate intracellular, such as Chlamydias and Rickettsias. They have the energy-producing mechanisms and the genetic material necessary for their development and growth. Bacteria are part of the prokaryotic kingdom (pro of primitive and karyotic of nucleus). Their size ranges between 0.5 and 3 µm, some types could reach 10 µm. Regarding the bacteria of medical interest, they have a size between 0.4 and 2 µm, so they are only visible then, under the light microscope or electron microscope. 

  • Helminths: 

Its name comes from the Greek term “worm”; They are multicellular microorganisms with a complex life cycle that are usually seen with the naked eye when they are adults. Like protozoa, helminths can be free-living or parasitic in nature. In their adult form, helminths cannot multiply in humans. There are three important groups of helminths, which are human parasites, which are: flatworms (flatworms), spiny-headed worms (acanthus) and roundworms (nematodes).

  • Fungus:

They are eukaryotes that cause superficial (skin) or deep (tissue) infections; they have a diversity of structures, functions, ways of growth and lifestyles. They are organisms that have unique qualities among all living beings, and this capacity generates a harmful or beneficial impact on human activity; In one case, they are used for the preparation of food or in the production of antibiotics, however they give rise to diseases in plants and animals, constituting a constant challenge in the areas of research, diagnosis, treatment and control. 

  • Prions: 

They are the simplest known infectious agents: a simple protein molecule. They do not contain nucleic acids or genetic information. It is propagated in the host by inducing the conversion (conformational change) of the endogenous prion protein PrP into a proteinase resistant PrPsc isoform.

  • Protozoa: 

They are microscopic unicellular eukaryotes that can be free-living or parasitic in nature, capable of multiplying in humans, which contributes to their survival and also allows serious infections to develop from just one organism. Protozoa that live in the human intestine occur by human-human transmission via the fecal-oral route; while protozoa that live in human blood or tissues are transmitted to other human beings by an arthropod vector, that is, the bite of a mosquito for example. 

  • Virus: 

According to a virologist, viruses “contain proteins and nucleic acids, transporting genetic information for their own replication, for which they use the cellular machinery. Each virus has a unique species of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) ”. 

For their part, other virologists add that they transfer nucleic acid from one cell to another, multiplying and causing diseases in microorganisms, plants, animals and man. However, not everything is harmful because they are used for the production of vaccines and the mass immunization of populations against viral diseases.

1.2.4. Toxins 

Toxins respond to a process generated by bacteria, as mentioned by a scientist: “Once the bacteria have overcome the subject’s defensive barriers, they can produce toxic infections, that is, while the bacteria multiply and invade the host’s tissues. , secretes toxins ”. Thus, toxins can be classified into endotoxins and exotoxins, according to their location and chemical nature. Understanding that: 

  • Endotoxins:

They are those that are part of the outer membrane of the cell wall of Gram negative bacteria, so they can only be produced by this type of bacteria. Its outer membrane is composed of lipoproteins, phospholipids, and lipopolysaccharides (LPS); endotoxins are released naturally or after the action of chemical agents (eg antibiotics). Likewise, they are characterized by being thermostable, by being of low toxicity and by producing effects on human health such as fever, hypotension, weakness, generalized pain, shock and death in some cases. 

  • Exotoxins: 

They are proteins produced in the cytoplasm of both Gram positive and Gram negative pathogenic bacteria and subsequently secreted abroad. They are released by bacteria during their growth and spread easily through the blood as they are soluble in body fluids. They have the ability to stimulate the production of certain antibodies called antitoxins, and are characterized by being thermolabile, by presenting high toxicity and by being highly immunogenic. 

1.2.5. Biological warfare

Biological warfare is the great threat that has existed for decades, although wars with explosive weapons are the most recordable throughout history, the use of biological agents as weapons has also been recorded in history. 

The foregoing leads to mentioning the bioagents that are present in biological warfare; According to other experts, that organism is considered a bioagent – either as a bacterium, virus, parasites, fungi, among others – a toxin or other biological material with the ability to affect human health in various ways, so they stand out an example:

(…) Botulinum toxin is the most poisonous substance known, to the point that a single gram of crystalline toxin, dispersed and inhaled, would kill more than 1 million people, even when technical factors make such dissemination difficult. 

In addition to this, it also highlights what a biological weapon represents, which is made up of two parts to be considered as such, that is, one part is the pathogenic agent, and the other part is the dissemination mechanism; The pathogenic agent has been the microorganism that threatens health, while the dissemination mechanism, seeing as the method by which the microorganism reaches the victim, an example of this, can be the poisoning of letters, or missiles. 

The United Nations Organization has come to define that biological warfare implies the use for hostile purposes of live microorganisms, whatever their nature, or of the infectious or toxic material derived from them, destined to cause disease or death to man, animals or plants. 

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