Aum Shinrikyo - National Security Forum

The Biological War Threat
Anthrax, Black Plague, and Bird Flu, Oh, My!
Kimothy L. Smith, DVM PhD
Nevada Counties with Cases of Anthrax
Played in Las Vegas at the House of Blues in Feb 2012
A Brief Bit of History
Biological Warfare Programs
Bio-Terrorism and Biodefense
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Summary and Discussion
A Brief Bit of History
• The Siege of Caffa
• European Settlement of America
• George Washington
Locator Map of Caffa
Present Day Feodosija, Ukraine. Establish in 1266
Siege of Caffa
• The year 1346
• First known use of Biological Warfare
• Responsible for spreading the Black Death
from Crimea to Europe
European Settlement of America
• In 1763 Lord Jeffrey Amherst purposely
distributed Smallpox virus contaminated
blankets to American Indians
• In the mid-1800’s at least four different major
epidemics struck the Plains tribes
George Washington
• Personal physician recorded in his journal that
Washington had Anthrax
• Surgically removed the lesion from his thigh
• Kept very secret
Recommended Reading
Biological Warfare Programs
• Country Program Status and Sverdlovsk
• Biological Weapons Convention
• Military vs. Civilian and Agricultural Threats
Program Status
Sverdlosvk 1979
Between 120 and 400 persons sick
At least 75 died
Initial report blamed contaminated meat
Later linked to release from bio-weapons facility
Multiple fragment sizes for vrrA loci
Military housing south of Compound 19
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
• The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibited use of
Biological Weapons
• The BTWC was opened for signature in 1972 and
entered into force in 1975
• The Convention bans the development,
production, stockpiling, acquisition and retention
of microbial or other biological agents or toxins,
in types and in quantities that have no
justification for prophylactic, protective or other
peaceful purposes.
Sec. of State Clinton at BWC Review Conference 7
“The nature of the problem is evolving. The advances in
science and technology make it possible to both prevent
and cure more diseases, but also easier for states and
non-state actors to develop biological weapons. A crude,
but effective, terrorist weapon can be made by using a
small sample of any number of widely available
pathogens, inexpensive equipment, and college-level
chemistry and biology. Even as it becomes easier to
develop these weapons, it remains extremely difficult…to
detect them, because almost any biological research can
serve dual purposes. The same equipment and technical
knowledge used for legitimate research to save lives can
also be used to manufacture deadly diseases.”
Military vs. Civilian and Agricultural Threat
• On the battlefield the
threat of BW may be as
effective (or more!) as
actual use
• Is the enemy objective to
kill or hinder (incapacitating
agents) or consume
• Control of BW agent after
release may be difficult or
impossible due to drift,
etc., or use of infectious
Military vs. Civilian and Agricultural Threat
• Military use of BW agent
on a civilian population?
Biological Warfare or BioTerrorism?
• Attack on agricultural
targets could be
potentially more
devastating, at least
• Accomplished by State or
Non-state actors
Bioterrorism and Biodefense
Aum Shinrikyo and Amerithrax
Biodefense Spending vs. Readiness
DIY Bio and Synthetic Biology
“The Birds are Already Doing That…”
Aum Shinrikyo
Anthrax Attack
Aum leader Chizuo Matsumoto
aka Shoko Asahara
(Aum Shinrikyo)
-Both isolates lack pXO2 plasmid
-Fragment sizes match for 7 loci
Sept. 18,
Mailing of anthrax letters to NBC and NY Post and probably to the National
Sept. 20
St. Petersburg
Mailing of hoax letters to NBC and probably to NY Post [and National
Sept. 21
Mailing of accusatory letter to Quantico Marine Base accusing Dr. Asaad,
former USAMRIID scientist, as terrorist.
Sept. 1925
NBC received and opened ANTHRAX letter (brown granular sandy); not
recognized as dangerous, and not reported by media.
Sept. 25
NBC received and opened HOAX letter postmarked 20 Sept; notified FBI but
incident not reported by media.
Oct. 1
Washington Times article quoting SH (reprint from 11 Aug 97).
Oct. 2
Boca Raton
Stevens (AMI) checked into hospital, near death, undiagnosed.
Oct. 4
Boca Raton
First report of anthrax case, 5pm (Stevens, AMI).
Oct. 5
Boca Raton
Death of first anthrax victim (Stevens, inhalation anthrax).
Oct. 5
St. Petersburg
Mailing of hoax letters hoax letters to J. Miller at NY Times and H. Troxler at St.
Petersburg Times.
Oct. 5-8
US media
Suspicion of possible bioterrorism is increasing but mail not implicated.
Oct. 6-7
Boca Raton
At AMI, spores found in 2nd worker and on Stevens' computer keyboard.
Oct. 8
Boca Raton
2nd worker (Blanco, mailroom worker) at AMI sick, nasal spores detected; FBI
takes over investigation, seals AMI office. Blanco later confirmed to have
inhalation anthrax.
Oct. 9
US media
Looks like bioterrorism (letters not yet recognized as source).
Oct. 9
St. Petersburg
Troxler (St. P Times) opened hoax letter.
Oct. 9
Mailing of anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy.
Oct. 10
Boca Raton
3rd AMI worker (2nd in mailroom) tests positive for anthrax. FBI now conducting
criminal investigation. Anthrax strain appears to be Ames.
Oct. 10-12
US media
First suspicion that source of anthrax at AMI might be a letter (not found),
since two of those affected work in mailroom.
Oct. 12
Miller at NYT opened hoax letter.
Oct. 12-13
US media
First reports of any anthrax of hoax letters to media.
Oct. 12
NBC cutaneous anthrax case reported (Brokaw's Assistant). First symptom was
25 Sept.
CSF smear
Thoracic radiograph
Bruce Ivins
• The total cost of
Amerithrax is
• 5 deaths and 24
infected person
• Did the U.S. reaction
cause this to be a
“Black Swan” event?
Biodefense Spending
Federal Agency Biodefense Funding, FY2010-FY2011
Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Volume 8, Number 2, 2010
Civilian Biodefense Funding by Agency,
FY2011 (in $millions)
Federal Agency Biodefense Funding, FY2010-FY2011
Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Volume 8, Number 2, 2010
Bio-Response Report Card
The Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center’s Bio-Response Report Card October
2011, WMD Center Wash., DC
Do-it-yourself: Cathal Garvey, 26, poses in the biology laboratory he created in his
mother's spare bedroom. – MIT Technology Review 2/13/12
The Cat’s Out of the Bag
“The Birds are Already Doing That…”
• National Institutes of Health funded
study to genetically modify H5N1
Influenza virus (Bird Flu) to be more
easily transmitted between humans
• The research prompted the National
Science Advisory Board for
Biosecurity (NSABB), which advises
the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS), to
recommend that Science and Nature
redact key information prior to
• Both NSABB and HHS expressed
concerns that published details
about the papers' methodology and
results could become a blueprint for
Emerging Infectious Diseases
• West Nile Virus
• Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome
• Avian Flu
• Swine Flu
• Ebola Reston Virus
Summary and Discussion
• BW Threat of yesterday
likely doesn’t exist today
• Bioterrorism and EID’s are
“Black Swan” events
• Balanced approach
between Biodefense and
building Public Health
Capability and Capacity is
the most sound approach
• Despite fears of DIY Bio and
Synthetic Biology openness
of research keeps us safer
Questions or Comments?

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