Bioterror threat is growing, say medics

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The world faces a growing risk that terrorists will use new biological weapons created by genetic engineering, the British Medical Association will warn this week.

The world faces a growing risk that terrorists will use new biological weapons created by genetic engineering, the British Medical Association will warn this week.

Advances in research make it more likely that virulent and lethal forms of influenza and laboratory-enhanced strains of smallpox could be used as weapons, the BMA claims.

The warnings are spelt out in a report on the threat posed by biological warfare, released tomorrow by the BMA. The association, which represents 128,000 GPs and medics, will call for international action to curb the threat posed by these weapons.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said: "We have a small window of opportunity to make the world safer. The fact is that window is getting smaller."

The report lists a series of recent experiments creating lethal new viruses and bugs. The BMA will argue there are grounds for using biowarfare tests to find defences against threats from terrorist and rogue states. But it warns there are no international treaties to control these tests.

It is understood the BMA report will focus on recent tests including:

* Russian admissions that they created genetically enhanced anthrax.

* The creation by US scientists of a new type of smallpox - which is eradicated worldwide by a global vaccination programme - from the vaccine itself. This new bug, called SPICE, is 100 times more potent than the original.

* A new generation of weapons designed to attack the human nervous system or immune system with "catastrophic effects", perhaps using genetically modified natural toxins.

Comments