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Soldier4Christ
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« on: November 14, 2006, 07:15:28 AM »

World's deadliest bugs in hands of terrorists
New technology coming to create lethal bacteria, viruses from scratch

NEW technology that would give terrorists the power to create deadly bacteria and viruses from scratch is only years away from completion and threatens to make existing controls on biological weapons obsolete, experts warned yesterday.

Synthetic biology is an emerging field that allows scientists to build micro-organisms from simple genetic material, in theory enabling the creation of deadly pathogens such as ebola or anthrax without access to existing stockpiles of the bugs.

The technology could also allow terrorists or scientists in rogue states to jumble the genetic signature of the bugs in order to render them unrecognisable to health experts dealing with an outbreak, potentially delaying treatment and preventing authorities from tracing the origin of an attack.

The concerns were raised at a biosecurity conference at Edinburgh University yesterday in the run-up to a major review of the Biological Weapons Convention in Geneva later this month.

Dr Ronald Atlas, a biosecurity expert, from the University of Louisville in the United States, said there was a "loophole" in current oversight measures.

"The looming threat right now is what synthetic biologists can do.

"There is significant oversight over who can acquire ebola or Marburg. But with synthetic biology, you can potentially synthesise de novo [from scratch] so you don't have to get the viruses from someone. If you can synthesise without the organism, by just taking chemicals, mixing them together and making Marburg; if I can just go out and make it from a chemistry set, that is a looming threat and in the near future that technical barrier is going to be falling."

Scientists have already shown how easy it can be to create synthetic viruses.

Last year, a team in New York created a synthetic polio virus using information about its gene sequence readily available on the internet and genetic material from one of the many companies that sell made-to-order DNA.

Alistair Hay, a toxicologist from Leeds University, said synthetic biology offered an opportunity to improve human health by, for example, allowing scientists to create DNA sequences that may help produce vaccines.

Jo Husbands, an arms control specialist at the US Academies of Science, said those working in synthetic biology had scared themselves with what the technology was capable of, and were already taking steps to safeguard their work.

"It's a fascinating case of a scientific community and people doing this research trying to minimise the risk," she said.

Synthetic biology has been added to the agenda of the Biological Weapons Convention review, but it is unlikely to prompt an amendment to the treaty. The convention has been a source of international disagreement ever since its adoption in 1972. Unlike non-proliferation agreements on chemical and nuclear weapons, the BWC does not include a policing or enforcement function to tackle non-compliance.

Al-Qaeda is determined to acquire the technology to carry out a nuclear attack on the West, a senior Foreign Office official said yesterday.

The official warned that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was trawling the world for the materials and know-how to mount an attack using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Deadly organisms

EBOLA: One of the most deadly viruses known to man, ebola causes massive internal bleeding, which spills out through the orifices. Nine out of ten people die within ten days.

SMALLPOX: Highly contagious with 30 per cent mortality rate, smallpox exists only in labs in the US and Russia. Soviet scientists tried to combine it with ebola into a "doomsday" bug.

MARBURG VIRUS: Almost identical to ebola, it causes haemorrhagic fever and internal bleeding for which there is no effective treatment. It has a fatality rate of about 30 per cent.

ANTHRAX: A bacteria that is fatal without antibiotic treatment. It becomes "weaponised" when in aerosol form. Used in a terrorist mail attack in the US in 2001, killing five.

INFLUENZA: Concerns were raised earlier this year when scientists re-created a strand from the deadly Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, which killed more in total than the First World War.

SALMONELLA: Although not the most lethal virus, this tummy-bug was used in the first bioterrorism attack, in Oregon in 1984, when 751 people were infected by tainted salads. All survived.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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