Bioterrorism encompasses a wide variety of topics, from devastating terrorism with mass casualties to micro-events using low-technology but causing civil unrest, destruction, illness, injury and death. Over the past few years, the threat of bioterrorism, long overlooked and rejected, has escalated. In recent years, international terrorist threats have moved to the use of more lethal weapons for major civil destruction.
Most terrorists use explosives and firearms, but in order to inflict mass casualties, some groups now show interest in using chemical, medical, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) materials. Many nations are possessed of firearms, sought or willing to obtain them. As compared to accessing usable chemical, radiological or nuclear materials, it is simple to manufacture biological materials.
We're badly prepared to deal with a terrorist attack using biological weapons. The medical community should inform the public and policy makers about the threat, as has been done in response to the nuclear threat. We need to be prepared in the longer term to identify, diagnose, epidemiologically classify, and react adequately to the use of biological weapons and the danger of new and re-emerging pathogens. We should not pause, on the immediate horizon, the production and execution of strategic strategies to deal with civil bioterrorism.
WHAT ARE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS?
Biological weapons are complex mechanisms that transmit diseases that damage or destroy humans, animals or plants caused by organisms or toxins. They generally consist of two parts- A WEAPONIZED AGENT AND SYSTEM OF EXECUTION.
In biological weapons, almost any disease-causing organism (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, prions or rickettsia) or toxin (poisons derived from animals, plants or micro-organisms, or related synthetically generated substances) may be used.
From their natural state, the agents can be improved to make them more suitable as weapons for mass production, storage, and dissemination. Efforts to manufacture aflatoxin; anthrax; botulinum toxin; foot-and - mouth disease; glanders; plague; Q fever; rice blast; ricin; Rocky Mountain spotted fever; smallpox; and tularemia, among others, have been included in past biological weapons programmes.
THE BIOLOGICAL AGENTS CLASSIFICATION:
Biological agents and pathogens that can be used as weapons are categorized into three groups by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They are:
The highest priority is Category A agents, which are disease agents that pose a danger to national security and they can be passed on from person to person and/or contribute to high mortality and/or have a high potential for social disruption. There are anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, tularemia, and a series of viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers, such as Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, and Machupo, (via botulinum toxin, which is not passable from person to person). These disease agents occur in nature, but they could be controlled to make them more harmful (with the exception of smallpox, which has been eradicated in the wild).
Agents of category B are reasonably easy to disseminate and contribute to low mortality. These involve brucellosis, Q fever, typhus fever, ricin toxin, and other agents.
Category C agents include emerging disease agents that could be designed in the future for mass transmission, such as the Nipah virus.
The world is devastatingly impacted by bioterrorism. Many bioweapons are relatively easy to manufacture, inexpensive and capable of mass destruction by simply using small quantities. Water supply and water delivery systems are possible targets for bioweapons as they are the vital need of any ecosystem health and also the smooth functioning of our industrialized society's commercial and economic field. Another ideal target for bioterrorism is agriculture, which uses highly infectious, virulent and resistant agents that cause countries to suffer from economic hardship. Furthermore, for biological hazard generation, livestock, plants and birds may also be targeted.
80% of pathogens used for biowarfare are of animal origin and 60% of human pathogens are zoonotic, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). In addition, there are many foreign animal agents that are readily available in nature and also from commercial sources (foot and mouth disease virus, Bacillus anthracis and African swine fever virus), which require little effort to treat and spread these pathogens.
CHALLENGES FROM NON-STATE ACTOR:
There is plenty of agreement that the use by non-state actors of biological weapons remains a concrete fact. When they were able to access such weapons, non-state actors did not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and criminal groups were more than willing to support terrorist organizations in acquiring materials. Take two examples: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL) has routinely used chemical weapons from available Syrian inventories or produced its own primitive variants on Syria's battlefields. And when they wanted to sell nuclear material to what they believed was a terrorist organization, many criminals in Moldova were arrested.
In addition to these events, there are several terrorism experts who agree that there is ample reason to assume that WMD technologies are being sought by terrorists. Terrorist groups continue to aggressively pursue WMD technologies, including biological weapons, from IS to Al-Qaeda.
EFFICIENT STEPS OF REGULATION:
Public health is an essential cornerstone of every national security system, and an effective response to bioterrorism is therefore needed. Multimodal and multi-agency methods can accomplish this, and all of these techniques are relatively straightforward. Efficient mechanisms of surveillance against bioterrorism include:
¡ Biosecurity: Biosecurity is the system for protecting and regulating unauthorized entry, loss, theft, deliberate discharge, and therefore the possibility of transmission of infectious diseases to crops and livestock, quarantined pests, invasive alien species and modified living organisms.
¡ Vigilance instruments: Different past outbreaks have contributed to the realization that a regional and even global response is required. To ensure successful containment and the reduction of casualties, early detection of a bioterror agent is crucial.
¡ Research programmes: The creation of medical instruments to address the danger of bioweapons requires a detailed understanding of these microbes and the reaction of the human immune system to them.
¡ Risk management planning: Planning describes the steps needed, defines resources, assigns roles and responsibilities, and maintains overall collaboration that is vital to countering bioterrorism.
INDIA AND BIOTERRORISM:
Few incidents in the past have raised the risk of bioweapons in India, such as the outbreak of Scrub typhus during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965 in Assam and West Bengal of India. In 1994, pneumonic plague outbreaks in Surat (Gujarat) and Bubonic plague in Beed (Gujarat) resulted in mass casualties and increased exposure to India's defence and intelligence outfits.
The Nipah Virus outbreak in Kerala has the physical characteristics to function as a possible bioterrorism agent in 2018. In addition, as was evident from the H1N1 virus, which claimed over 2,300 lives in recent years, India still appears ill-equipped to face the threat of bioterrorism.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has introduced a model instrument where participation of both government and private sectors is a sine qua non to overcome any such attack in order to keep India fighting ready to tackle a bioterrorism attack. In India, a number of nodal ministries have been appointed to deal with bioterrorism-induced epidemics. A specialized force set up under the MHA to deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear ( CBRN) attacks is the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). It consists of 12 battalions, three from BSF and CRPF each, and two from CISF, ITBP and SSB each.
Defense Research and Development (DRDE) is the Defense Research and Development Organization's (DRDO) main biodefense laboratory in India. It is primarily involved in the production of protection against biological, chemical and toxicological materials which are malicious. On January 15, 1973, India signed the BTWC with some reservations 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: In particular, the Government of India would like to reiterate its understanding that the Convention 's purpose is to eradicate biological and toxic weapons, thus completely eliminating the possibility of their use. An exception with regard to biological agents or toxins that would be allowed for prophylactic, defensive or other peaceful purposes would in no way create a loophole with regard to the manufacture or retention of biological and toxic weapons.
Any aid that could be given under the terms of the Convention would be of a medical or humanitarian nature and would be in accordance with the United Nations Charter. India 'Special Chemicals, Species, Components, Machinery, and Technologies' (SCOMET) guidelines include a strict list of export control products that include dual-use goods, technologies and services.
The 'International Health Regulations' (IHR) that entered into force in June 2007 have also been updated by India to account for rapid identification and countermeasures of health emergencies.
Over the years, arms have switched from blades to malicious biological devices. While very few pathogens can be used as bioweapons, they were made efficient guns by their considerable ease of production along with the immense mass casualty and civil disturbance. Since bioterrorism attacks are unpredictable, in order to react appropriately, early detection, containment, treatment and communication are critical.
To insured our national security, new programmes and systems should be developed. In addition, in order to restrict access to biological materials, laboratory biosecurity and regulations should be established and revised on the basis of policy-makers' risk assessment. Increased partnerships between the academic sector, government private sector and nations, which will provide benefits well beyond the security of intentional acts of bioterrorism, are increased and urgent.