Click on any microorganism below, or click
on the upward pointing arrow to go to the Main page of the article.
This is probably the microorganism which has been researched in the greatest
detail by the defence (or rather, offense) community.
Bacillus anthracis, the organism that causes anthrax, derives its name
from the Greek word for coal, anthracis, because of its ability to cause
black, coal-like cutaneous eschars.
Click on the images to view larger versions, which open in new windows.
1) The typical black hardened "eschar" which is a characteristic
feature of Anthrax.
2) A larger eschar, this time on the neck. An opening extending inwards (a
fistula?) can also be seen.
3) Anthrax pneumonia caused by inhalation of anthrax spores. The basal
portions of both lungs are affected in this case. This is the usual cause of
death in Anthrax. In this case, the patient died 22 days after the X-ray was
4) An alternate way of dying if you are affected with anthrax : Hemorrhagic
In the second half of this century, anthrax was developed as part of a larger
biological weapons program by several countries, including the Soviet Union and
the U.S. The number of nations believed to have biological weapons programs has
steadily risen from 10 in 1989 to 17 in 1995, but how many are working with
anthrax is uncertain.
The main "advantage" with anthrax is that, it is very
easy to cultivate the bacteria and the spores (as most bact. spores are) are extremely
resistant to adverse environmental conditions and hence, easy to deliver at the
desired site of attack. It is estimated that a production facility for producing
anthrax in weapon quantities could probably be set up in a small house or
apartment for <$100,000 and could be run by perhaps less than a dozen
technicians with only the equivalent of a BS degree, operating under the
direction of a single Ph.D.
Ease of Delivery:
Since the bacteria are transported in the form of spores, transportation is
extremely easy and does not require specialized equipment.
A 1970 analysis by the World Health Organization concluded that the release of
aerosolized anthrax upwind of a population of 5 million could lead to an
estimated 2.5 million casualties. (that is around 50% of the population
will be affected)
An analysis the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress in
1970-80, estimated that around 3 million deaths could occur following the
release of 100 kilograms of aerosolized anthrax over Washington D.C., making
such an attack as lethal as a hydrogen bomb.
* 100 kilograms isn't much. Any two 3rd year students will
weigh more than 100 kgs. Two interns wont, but that's another story.
However, Anthrax does not spread from person to person, making a
"chain reaction" impossible. This fact prevents it from
scoring the perfect 5 in this category in my ratings....
please see the clarification below)
The early presentation of anthrax disease would resemble a fever or cough and
would therefore be exceedingly difficult to diagnose without a high degree of
suspicion. Once symptoms begin, death follows 1-3 days later for most people. If
appropriate antibiotics are not started before development of symptoms,
the mortality rate is estimated to be 90%.
In short, an attack by the anthrax bacillus will create a population of the "LIVING
DEAD" who would be alive, but without any hope of cure.
Interesting Facts about Anthrax:
1) During the checks carried out on the Iraqi defence establishments by UN
inspectors after the Gulf War, 8500 gallons of anthrax, 50 prepared bombs
and 4 missile warheads with this material were found and documented in the
official reports. This quantity of anthrax would be enough to wipe out ALL the
major cities in the US.
2) The "Aum Shirinko" religious sect, which gained
notoriety in 1995 for releasing Sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system, had
developed a large number of biological weapons, including anthrax. ( This
information has been reproduced from "Center of Civilian Biodefense
studies" , an official US govt. agency, hence I do not think there should
be no doubt about the authenticity of the info)
Image : The self-styled Guru of
Aum Shirinkyo, Shoko Asahara
3) An accident in a weapons manufacturing facility in Sverdlosk in Russia led to
an outbreak of Anthrax in 1979.
The exact figure of those dead is still secret, but is estimated to be around
200. ( Read more about the
accident in the "News Articles" section of the article)
Image : This picture might be of
the Sverdlosk complex. However, I am not sure of it.
4) ALL American soldiers are routinely immunized against Anthrax.
5) The sale of Anthrax and smallpox vaccines in the US saw a sudden spurt after
the WTC bombings, creating a scarcity of these vaccines. ( The Economic Times,
India, 27 Sept 2001 last page)
*The fact that Anthrax doesn't spread
from person to person is, in fact, one of its positive points.
Imagine that you
are the president of the USSR. If you authorize a biological attack against the
US, it would be very reassuring to know that YOUR OWN POPULATION WAS NOT GOING
TO BE AFFECTED.
Non-communicable biological weapons like Anthrax guarantee exactly that.
Although there is a danger that anthrax may spread among the animals and eventually
affect your own human population, the danger of this happening is comparatively
low when you consider diseases like Smallpox which have the potential of causing
a world wide catastrophe.
In case of bioweapons like Botulinum Toxin, the danger of your own population
being eventually affected is practically nil.
Why then do countries make bioweapons like smallpox which are potentially
lethal to themselves?
MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is a consequence of the Cold War arms race
that some people (some of whom were in a position to influence the policies of
their Governments) say prevented the 3rd world war from happening. It is not
difficult to imagine these same people arguing that a biological war was
avoided all these years exactly because the biological weapons developed are so
deadly that it would be irrational to use them...
However, would terrorists be rational if the got their hands on a
communicable bioweapon like Smallpox? Would they care about the strategic value
of using such a weapon or would they just try to destroy the "Enemy
Country" , no matter what the consequences that befall themselves later
You are free to make your own guess.