... or at least so says Paul Boutin. This guy is giving the other side of the biowar/bioterror debate - the side that says the threat is very real and possibly imminent. His arguments hold more water with me than those who say the threat is largely imagined, even if his book is unfortunatly titled. Here's the story from TCS Daily (an amazing news site if you don't know about it already):
"Since the invasion of Iraq and the collapse of Saddam Hussein's biological-weapons threat, people have breathed easier about the threat of bioterrorism and biological warfare. But recent developments suggest that this relaxation is unwarranted. Indeed, there's considerable evidence that we should be much more afraid than we are, or have been.
The first such warning comes from technology writer Paul Boutin, who recently set out to discover just how easy it would be for an amateur to create a dangerous biological weapon. The answer â€” as the title to his piece, "Biowar for Dummies" suggests â€” is "pretty easy, really." Instead of lethal genes, he inserted genes for fluorescence. Boutin writes:
I hadn't set foot in a lab since high school. Could I learn to build a bioweapon? What would I need? What would it cost? Could I set up shop without raising suspicions? And, most important[ly], would it work? . . .
Eventually, we fumble our way to a plastic dish full of translucent goop. If I'd been working on smallpoxâ€”and really committed to my causeâ€”this would have been the part where I'd inject a lab animal with the stuff to see if it got sick. Then I'd give myself a dose and head off on a days-long, multi-airport, transnational suicide run. But it was just yeast. Set on top of a black light, it glowed an eerie bright blue, like a Jimi Hendrix poster. My creation ... lived.
Boutin's a smart guy, but he's no Dr. Evil. If he can get this far, others (more skilled, more committed, more, um, evil) can go farther, faster.
And they won't have to start from scratch. As a troubling new article in Technology Review demonstrates, they'll have a lot of old Soviet bioweapons work to build on. The story â€” researched and double-checked by Technology Review over a period of 14 months â€” suggests that there's a lot to work with. What's more, the threat isn't just the usual suspects: "weaponized" anthrax, smallpox, ebola and plague. It turns out that Soviet scientists were working, with some success, on considerably creepier stuff. We're talking about pathogens that cause the body to attack its own nervous system by generating antibodies against nerves' myelin sheaths; producing a virulent, pathogenic form of Multiple Sclerosis; or bugs that produce endorphins, keeping a population sedated, or perhaps even genuinely in love with Big Brother. And while the Soviets had to work hard to get anywhere on this kind of thing a couple of decades ago, what was hard for them is easier now."----------------
So, yes, all the good weaponized strains are very available on the black market, and its pretty much a certainty that all the rogue nations most likely have their own special batches. But, it is also true that biological weapons just aren't that great for mass destruction. They are economy killers, for sure, and can probably wipe out any small midwestern town in a very terrifying and horrific fasion -- but a whole country? They wish...
However, infectious MS sounds pretty fucking scary. I imagine that the "some success" mentioned about such nefarious projects is about the same level of success the soviets had with their ESP experiments. Anyone here know how possible it would be to turn someone's sclerotic antibodies into infectious agents? That would require some kind of high-level genetic virus designing, no? Wouldn't such a pathogen have to code for a protein that produces a demyelinating antigen - one that looks "human" enough to fool the body into using it?