Genetically Engineered Solutions for Genetically Engineered Weapons
In this paper, I’d like to discuss current legislation, history, and military strategies used in the field for bioterrorism and why we need to continue further research into biowarfare. Some believe that knowledge of biological warfare should be kept and locked in a box, never to be opened. However, I disagree, as it is highly important to continue research and understanding of that field of terrorism. According to Heritage.org, the economic cost of an anthrax attack would cost up to 26 Billion for every 100,000-people affected. In addition, the article states that 250 pounds of anthrax spores sprayed from a plane over Washington would cause more deaths than one megaton hydrogen bomb. In comparison, the “Little Boy” bomb was only 0.0000045 megatons, which killed at least 150,000 people in Hiroshima. What could be even more troubling is that US Security knows that offensive bioterrorism weapons exist in dangerous countries like North Korea and Syria. Bioterrorists will always think of elusive ways to wreak havoc, but being proactively up to date, consistently knowledgeable, and always prepared can help scientists plan, predict, and defend the country against threats of biological warfare.
The Effects of Unlocking the Genetic Code
Every living organism has a genetic code that can be studied and researched. This information can then be recorded in a public data base. According to the website for The Human Genome Project, this an organization is a group that has documented the genetic code of humans and several other organisms. This means that while we are currently unable to fully understand the microscopic realm of molecular genetics, we are getting closer. However, we are not limited to understanding humans and simple organisms. The ability to decode the genetic code of pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses also means that bio-terrorists can make weapons out of them more easily. Combining current understanding of plasmids and genetic engineering means that bioterrorists can create more resistant or infectious pathogens (USAF, 2002). Therefore, we need to further our understanding of genetic engineering of bacteria and viruses. If we were to create a database for bacteria and viruses, like The Human Genome Project, we would be more efficient with our research and efforts to defend ourselves, as we are no longer starting from scratch, but instead we have a database and public catalogue where we can start from.
The Advancement of Medical Technology
In addition to our exponential expansion of medical knowledge in the last century, we also have developed stronger technology to research pathogens. While we were fumbling with rudimentary microscope centuries ago, we are now able to see interactive biochemical processes on a molecular level. Viruses are smaller than bacteria and human cells, so the ability to understand what is going on, is a very recent and modern skill. However, understanding how a virus can wreck a human’s immune system means that bioterrorists can understand and examine the interactions between a cell and a pathogen on a molecular level. This means that bioterrorists would be able to fully grasp the tiny interactions that happen during an infection, and using that knowledge, can create deadlier pathogens that would evade suppression from an immune system (USAF, 2002). Despite this risk, understanding the molecular interactions would also suggest that we would be better at creating antidotes, vaccines, and other drugs to combat again these deadlier infections. One example of a doctor using similar methods as a bioterrorist, is a man named Dr. Ken Alibek. He is researching the human immune system to figure out a way to protect against anthrax by re-vitalizing the immune system. By being able to fully understand what is going on during an anthrax infection, he is able to think of strategies on a molecular level to defend the human body against similar threats. He believes that with the advancement of medical technology, he hopes that his methods pave the way to what he hopes to be a new class of antibiotics (PBS).
The Reliance on Genetic Engineering for the Pharmaceutical Industry
The pharmaceutical industry relies on vats of bacteria to create some of the vitamins and medications that we have on the market. Like understanding how plasmids work, taking genetic engineering further can revolutionize our understanding of creating new pharmaceuticals to market. However, bioterrorists who have a good understanding on how to genetically engineer bacteria, could use that knowledge to create bad bacteria. Similar to bacteria, viruses can be manipulated and created in similar ways. According to Kai Kupferschmidt, the small pox virus actually reconstituted in a lab, previously having been declared eradicated in 1980. If Canadian researchers can recreate the “extinct” smallpox virus, it is not too far for citizens in other nations to as well. Despite this, scientists can also create good bacteria, those that can create useful proteins, vaccines, or drugs that can be used defensively. In fact, one dark secret regarding the pharmaceutical business is that it is getting more and more difficult to create new pharmaceuticals. In fact, according to Marcia Angell’s book, “The Truth About the Drug Companies, for 2016, only 23% of the new drugs on market contain active ingredients that are better than drugs that are currently on the market. Turning to vats of genetically engineered bacteria could be the answer to solving the dark secret with the pharmaceutical business. One example of this happening is a patent by the Xoma Corporation. This company from Berkeley, California utilized genetically engineered bacteria to create proteins that can reverse an infectious bacteria’s resistance to antibiotics. This revolutionary knowledge was developed using similar methods as a bioterrorist would.
In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate the eminent importance of advancing our research in biological warfare. Understanding the genetic code of pathogens, like bacteria and viruses, is very important. Terrorists could use that knowledge to create more infectious pathogens, but it also means that we can create stronger antibiotics. Utilizing a data base to store information on pathogens can be an efficient strategy to starting to develop a defense protocol. Second, increasing the development of biotechnology to understand the tiny interactions that happen between a pathogen and the immune system, can help us create stronger medication because we fully understand what is happening. While this knowledge can be used offensively, it can also be used to accurately create medication that can hinder the infectiousness of a pathogen. Last, we should further our conquest for fully understanding genetic engineering. While terrorists can use this knowledge to create deadlier pathogens, it also means that we can create stronger pharmaceuticals. Therefore, instead of running away from biological warfare, we always be up to date and prepared to defend the country against threats of biological warfare.