Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:
Current Assessment/State of the Field:
Henderson, D., A., “Bioterrorism as a Public Health Threat,” Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 4, No. 3, July-sept 1998.
- Admonition & historical accounts.
Elizabeth K. Leffel, Douglas S. Reed, “Marburg and Ebola Viruses as Aerosol Threats,” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, 2004;2(3):186-191.
- “Although transmission during naturally occurring outbreaks is believed to occur from close personal contact with blood or other body fluids, or the failure to practice proper medical hygiene as relates to blood-borne pathogens, in the past 10 years several publications have indicated that filoviruses possess a number of properties that would make them suitable as biological weapons.”
- “While the possibility of aerosol exposure cannot be ruled out in some cases, it is clear that direct contact is the primary means of transmission.”
- “The high mortality rates, coupled with the knowledge that these viruses possess properties considered desirable in biological weapons, explains the considerable concern about their potential use.”
- “Without data there can be little understanding of the level of threat that filoviruses present. For example, it is not clear from the available data whether filoviruses would cause large-scale infections and deaths if disseminated by aerosol over a city without extensive preparation or modification (“weaponization”).”
Rep. Peter King, ”HEARING BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY OF THE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS”, FIRST SESSION JULY 12, 2005. “PROJECT BIOSHIELD: LINKING BIOTERRORISM THREATS AND COUNTERMEASURE PROCUREMENT TO ENHANCE TERRORISM PREPAREDNESS.”
- “The purpose of today’s hearing is to evaluate the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services’ implementation of the Project BioShield Act of 2004. Initially proposed by the President in his State of the Union address in 2003.”
- Rep. Peter King, “enacted into law exactly 1 year ago, BioShield was designed to address the lack of a commercial market for countermeasures against CBRN weapons, creating incentives for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to invest and do research in the development of such products.”
- “Effective countermeasures exist for few of the biological threats deemed the most dangerous by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The paucity of such countermeasurers stems from the lack of a significant commercial market. Of course, diseases such as Marburg and Ebola occur so infrequently in nature biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to invest the millions of dollars required to bring preventive new treatments or vaccines to market.”
Associated Press, “Uganda: Ebola Outbreak Kills Medics.” New York Times, December 7, 2007
- -highly contagious, doctors didn’t know what they were dealing with/public health response.
Collett Marc S. “Impact of Synthetic Genomics on the Threat of Bioterrorism with Viral Agents. In: Working Papers for Synthetic Genomics: Risks and Benefits for Science and Society,” pp. 83-103. Garfinkel MS, Endy D, Epstein GL, Friedman RM, editors. 2007.
- “From a bioterrorism perspective, viruses isolated from nature are a sure bet. Their virulence and transmissibility are known. Their effect and impact can be predicted or calculated. Viruses isolated directly from diseased hosts (called “primary isolates”) demonstrate clearly the consequences of their infection. Additionally, the virus’s ability to survive, persist and spread in the environment and among susceptible hosts is generally known. Finally, pathogenic viruses isolated from diseased hosts are typically “hot” viruses; that is, primary isolates of pathogenic viruses tend to cause severe disease in their host.” P87
- “Most viral genome sequences deposited in databases are derived from laboratory-passaged viruses. While many sequences may be derived from low-passage viruses, and are therefore more likely to be close to their primary isolates, in some cases the passage history of the virus from which the sequence was derived is unclear, as are the biological attributes associated with that virus. Thus, there can in some cases be uncertainty regarding the biological attributes of a synthetic replica of a gene bank virus sequence.” P88
- “[S]ynthetic genomics technology could provide the means for the re-creation of variola virus, and therefore could affect the availability of this agent for malevolent use. Due to the large size of the poxvirus genome, however, it would be anticipated that well-established poxvirus recombination techniques would play a significant supportive or alternative role in producing an entire poxvirus genome.” p 91
- “Smaller genome segments of a sequence derived from variola virus may be readily incorporated into a “base” monkeypox virus, resulting in chimeric orthopoxviruses with unknown and unpredictable biological characteristics.” p 91
- “Because of their virulence, filoviruses are handled in high containment laboratory facilities to prevent virus release into the environment, and also to protect those working with these highly pathogenic viruses. Consequently, the number of labs in possession of these viruses is limited, as is access to these labs. However, during outbreaks, unsecured local hospitals and medical field teams collect, hold and transport numerous infectious patient specimens. Additionally, there may be covert stores of virus outside known containment laboratories. Hemorrhagic fever viruses were the subject of biowarfare research in the former Soviet Union, where weaponized Marburg virus was produced and research on Ebola was conducted. Upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union and these programs, the disposition of laboratory biological materials was not tracked.” pp 92-93
- “While [Australian workers] trying to improve their experimental mouse contraceptive vaccine, they engineered the expression of cytokine IL-4 from ectromelia virus, hoping that infection with this recombinant poxvirus would enhance antibody production by their vaccine. It instead resulted in severe suppression of cellular immune responses in the mice, uncontrolled virus replication, and animal death. Even mice previously immunized against normal ectromelia virus 16 or treated with the antiviral drug cidofovir17 were unable to survive ectromelia-IL-4 virus challenge.” p 95
Editors, “Ebola vials found in car trunk: Ex-Winnipeg scientist arrested at U.S. border,” Toronto Star, A29, May 14, 2009,
- ”Konan Michel Yao, 42, is in U.S. custody charged with smuggling.”
- ”The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which has possession of the missing vials, has determined some contain small amounts of genetic Ebola material, said Plummer.”
- ”Dr. Frank Plummer, head of the Winnipeg lab, said Yao did not have security clearance to work with high-level pathogens such as the Ebola virus. But he was allowed to work on an Ebola vaccine project in the facility’s special pathogens unit.”
- ”The vials, according to court documents, were in a glove, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a plastic bag. They were found in the trunk of the scientist’s car.”
- ”But he [Plummer] added the material poses no risk to public health. ‘It was not infectious,’ Plummer told reporters yesterday. ‘The only thing (Yao) could have done with it would be to make an Ebola vaccine.’”
- “Yao left work in January when his research fellowship ended and he signed a document swearing he had not taken any government property, said Plummer.”
Mooneyhan Cody, “A Sweet Discovery Raises Hope For Treating Ebola, Lassa, Marburg And Other Fast-Acting Viruses” Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, hosted by MedicalNews Today Last accessed November 11, 2010. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/206743.php
- “A new research report appearing in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology (http://www.jleukbio.org) suggests that a purified and modified form of a simple sugar chain may stop fast-acting and deadly viruses, such as Ebola, Lassa, or Marburg viruses, in their tracks.”
- “This compound, called chlorite-oxidized oxyamylose or COAM, could be a very attractive therapeutic option because not only did this compound enhance the early-stage immune defenses in mice, but because of sugar’s abundance, it is derived from easily obtainable sources.”
- “To make this discovery, researchers infected mice with a virus that kills in less than a week. When one group of these infected mice was treated with an unpurified version of the compound, about half of the infected mice were protected from the effects of the virus. Researchers then purified the compound and treated another group of infected mice. In that group, more than 90 percent survived the deadly infection. These results suggest that the purified compound almost completely blocked the killer virus by speeding the response of the body’s fast-acting immune cells, called white blood cells or leukocytes, at the early stage of infection”
Kron, Josh, “Uganda Seen as a Front Line in Bioterrorism.” NYT A8, November 11, 2010.
- Uganda Virus Research Institute
- “need to tighten the security of vulnerable public health laboratories in East Africa” – Andrew C. Weber, Asst. to Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs.
- “preventing terrorist acquisition of dangerous pathogens, the seed material for biological bioweapons, is a security imperative.”
- Shabab insurgent group – “attention on East Africa as a frontier in American security interests.”
- warm, wet environment fuels biothreats of anthrax, marburg, and ebola.
- anthrax- killed hundred of hippos in recent years
- marburg- tourist died after contracting disease at a natl park
- ebola- outbreak 2007- killed over 20 people
- relaxed security and poor funding/financing creates a security risk.
Hoffer, Steven, “Lax Security at Ugandan Anthrax Labs Poses US Security Threat,” AOL News Surge Desk, November 11, 2010. http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/senator-richard-lugar-visits-east-africa-to-address-bioterrorism-concerns/19712541.
- “Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana visited Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries on Wednesday as part of a three-country tour of East Africa assessing the ‘next generation’ of threats to American security, according to The New York Times.”
- “The ministry’s laboratories and other similar facilities in the region are a U.S. security concern because they present an easy target for terrorist organizations to obtain virus samples like anthrax, Ebola and Marburg, as well as other dangerous materials. Security at the facilities is described as lax at best, with dangerous materials stored in unlocked refrigerators.”
- “Uganda is considered both a breeding ground for deadly viruses and a hotbed of terrorist activity. Hundreds of hippopotamuses have died from exposure to anthrax in recent years, and the nation has also recorded deaths from Ebola and Marburg.”
- “The prevalence of disease, combined with the recent suicide bombings by the Islamist insurgent al-Shabab movement during the final match of this summer’s World Cup, has captured American attention and concern about the region.”
Anthrax, Lab Safety, Biosafety, Ebola, Africa
Matishak, Martin, “U.S Will Expand Biosecurity Work to Africa, Official Says,” 23 November 2010, Global Security Network http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20101123_8958.php Last Checked 20 February 2011.
- “The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative will work to secure deadly pathogens in Africa to prevent their use as tools of bioterrorism, a key Defense Department official said yesterday.”
- “The Nunn-Lugar program has effectively safeguarded biological weapons facilities in the former Soviet Union but deadly disease materials, such as Ebola and anthrax, remain for the most part unprotected at research institutions in East Africa…”
- “‘I’ve been to a lot of the former bioweapons laboratories in the Soviet Union territory and if you look at the diseases that they weaponized, the pathogen samples originated in Africa,’ he said during a global health and security conference..”
- “‘We don’t want terrorist groups to do the same thing that the Soviet weapons program did,’ according to Weber…”
- “The program is on track to receive roughly $523 million in fiscal year 2011, once the annual spending bills are approved by both houses of Congress and sewn together in conference.”
- “Weber said recently the program was likely to provide several million dollars to African states to improve security at laboratories that store dangerous pathogens. He added yesterday that “big thrust and focus” of the initiative’s biological engagement work in Africa would be to improve biosafety and biosecurity at research institutions.”
- “Biosafety is often defined as measures intended to prevent the release of infectious agents within a laboratory or the outside environment. Biosecurity involves active methods to avert biological terrorism or other disease breakouts.”
- “The decision to expand the threat reduction program into Africa rather than other regions was based on several priorities, including: the prevalence of endemic disease, the presence of terrorist groups with intent to use biological agents; and the level of existing infrastructure and capacity and the impact the effort could have on improving that, according to Weber.”
*”’Unfortunately, there’s terrorism in East Africa, as well as the South Asia region. So yes, we need to work in both; we need to prioritize. A lot of what I described should be a global effort but we can’t start everywhere at the same time,’ he told GSN.”
Editors, “Australia Could Support Bioweapon Vaccine Development,” Global Security Newswire, November 22, 2011 http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20111122_1395.php Last Checked November 25, 2011
- “The United States has requested support from the government operator of a newly opened biological defense laboratory in Australia to develop vaccines for potential bioterrorism agents.”
- “The Australian Animal Health Laboratory is expected to study deadly agents such as the Ebola virus.”
- “Research personnel at the Biosecurity Level 4 facility are expected to collaborate with overseas counterparts.
- “‘They want to develop anti-biological warfare options, which could include vaccines, or better equipment such as face masks for their troops, particularly after the anthrax scare.”
Ghose, Tia, “A Possible Ebola Vaccine?: A new Ebola vaccine candidate protects mice against death and can be produced quickly in response to a bioterrorism threat,” The Scientist December 5, 2011. http://the-scientist.com/2011/12/05/a-possible-ebola-vaccine/ Last checked 12/7/2011.
- ”The vaccine combines antigens with a protein in complex to prime a more robust immune response, and can be grown quickly in tobacco plants, making it feasible to quickly ramp up production in the event that the Ebola virus is released as part of a terrorist attack, according to the study published Monday (December 5) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
- ”Every several years, Ebola emerges from its natural reservoirs in African forests and causes human outbreaks, killing 50 to 90 percent of the people infected.”
- ”The lethal disease depletes the clotting factor in victims’ blood, causing them to hemorrhage internally, said co-author Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, an immunologist at Arizona State University (ASU).”
- ” …the immune complex can be grown in transgenic tobacco plants, which can produce the vaccine more quickly than yeast or mammalian cells.”
- ”The key is to provide infected people with an instant dose of antibodies at first, while also priming the immune system to develop long-lasting immunity.”
- ”Testing the vaccine on mice exposed to a lethal dose of Ebola, ‘to our delight the mouse immune system responds beautifully to the antibody complex,’ Arntzen said, and about 80 percent of the mice survived.”
W. Phoolcharoen, et. al, “A nonreplicating subunit vaccine protects mice against lethal Ebola virus challenge,” PNAS, doi/10.1073/pnas.1117715108, 2011.
L. Zeitlin, et. al, “Enhanced potency of a fucose-free monoclonal antibody being developed as an Ebola Q:2 virus immunoprotectant,” PNAS, doi/10.1073/pnas.1108360108, 2011.