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Bioweapons Throughout History

Biological weapons have been used as a warfare tool by countries around the world with devastating results. This dilemma is not a recent occurrence; throughout history, leaders and military groups have been utilizing diseases to weaken the enemy, ranging from Napolean spreading Malaria in Italy to Amercian Confederate soldiers giving clothing laced with yellow fever to their Union counterparts. As wars progressed in the 20th century, this sort of tactic showed no sign of slowing down. For instance, during World War I, biological toxins were released into the enemy’s area, with the aim to infect their livestock.

In World War II, the same pathogen, Bacillus antracis, was once again used by the Japanese as a part of their human experimentation operation. In order to quell the rampant use of bioweapons, several treaties were produced, as so to ensure disarmament and create an ethical code for countries to follow. The most recent treaty, Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), did not ensure that this violent practice would stop, as conveyed in the 1990s bioweapon use by Iraq against American soldiers during the Gulf War. In spite of its adverse effects on both human health and environmental well-being, biological warfare continues to threaten the future of global public health.

AN BRIEF INSIGHT OF DESTRUCTION Table A: A historical overview of uses of bioweapons. 1763, AMERICA: American settlers gave small pox blankets to Native Americans

1797, ITALY: General Napoleon floods areas in Mantua, Italy in order to spread malaria faster

1914 - 1918, EUROPE: During World War I, pathogens such as Bacillus antracis, are used by the German and French.

1941 - 1947, JAPAN: The Japanese Imperial Army uses human experimentation on Chinese citizens.

GENEVA PROTCOL, 1925: The was established in order to prevent future use of bioweapons during warfare.

IRAQ, 1990S: Used bioweapons during the Gulf War against United States troops, violating the treaty.

TREATY, 1972: This treaty corrected the 1925 one, with rules for solely peaceful use of fungi.


The manner in which we conducted our research was through library research through Baruch Science’s database, using portals that included ScienceDirect and JSTOR. One drawback of primarily using library research is that we are not able to conduct our own direct research on the manner, as it could prove to be too costly to look at the biological warfare threat on an international scale. In regards to our hypothesis, we are claiming that due to the use of bioweapons throughout history and potential bioweapons today, that biological warfare can be a very imminent threat in the future if precautions are not taken. In doing so, we can also propose some solutions in order minimize the risks of bioweapons use by the military.

Findings After conducting library research, we decided to place our findings of major bioweapons into three categories. These categories were, fungal toxins, plant toxins, and bacterial toxins. In doing so, we were able to determine in-depth which type of bioweapons carry the most harm, or the potential to infect humans.

Table B: A brief overview of the type of bioweapons that can be used by the military, organized in three categories, including Fungal Toxins, Plant Toxins, and Bacterial Toxins.

Bioweapons Findings Table

Table C: An in-depth chart of the bioweapons previously mentioned, including their method of contraction and treatments, if any,

Findings Although only one of the bioweapons was actually used by the military during the 1980s in Southern Asia, which was Trichothecene, it does not diminish the threat of the other bioweapons presented in the table. About three of the six shown on the table, Alfatoxins, Botullinum Toxins, and Shiga Toxins, can also be contracted through consumption of contaminated food. What is alarming from this finding is that if these bioweapons are used by the military, then they could have a large impact on infecting a human population through damaging food source.

With tampering with something that is widely consumed by humans, the military can discreetly cause illness that is not always detected. Also, with bioweapons that include both Ricin and Abrin, the issue of sanitary precautions also arise, especially, when soldier with open wounds remain very vulnerable to contracting diseases that result in rapid deterioration of their health. In creating products that can quickly cleanse and cloth wounds, perhaps the risk of contracting diseases released by bioweapons can diminish considerably.

Findings and Possible Solutions Furthermore, in examining the treatments for the bioweapons listed, many can be treated with higher rates of success, if the symptoms are caught early. In recognizing that these symptoms are not the product of common illnesses such as the flu and the result of bioweapon use, this distinction would lead to a resolution in a life or death situation.

As a result, it is important that scientists work towards examining more of these bioweapons and how they impact human health, in order to produce alternative medicine, that is widely circulated, and not just in use of a select group of people, such as the military. Another method of treatment for these bioweapons is direct avoidance with such illnesses, which is not always a simple feat. In also understanding this, there should be a push in science towards producing high quality protective gear for those most at risk.

Conclusion: Thus, it is important to note that bioweapons still remain an important threat even today. There is almost no collective doubt that we are currently living in politically tumultuous times, and need to take necessary steps in order to prevent bioweapon use in the future. While many of the bioweapons discussed are not actively used within warfare, their potential for causing damage cannot be ignored. They can still be used to rapidly infect foo sources, which can result in damaging consequences to a civilian population.

Another thing that is important to note is that the two treaties that were made during the 20th century were not upheld. We do need to create more accountability within international relations in order to stop new uses of bioweapons. If these measures are not taken and the treaties are once again broken, the results can be devastating for many of those involved.

Bibliography: Balali-Mood, Mahdi, Mohammad Moshiri, and Leila Etemad. "Medical Aspects of Bio-terrorism." Toxicon69 (January 19,2013): 131-42. Casadevall, Arturo, and Liise-Anne Pirofski. "The Weapon Potential of Human Pathogenic Fungi." Medical Mycology44, no. 8 (2006): 68996. Certini, Giacomo, Riccardo Scalenghe, and William I. Woods. "The Impact of Warfare on the Soil Environment." Earth-Science Reviews 127 (September 9, 2013): 1-15. Dheilly, Nolwenn M., Robert Poulin, and Frédéric Thomas. "Biological Warfare: Microorganisms as Drivers of Host–parasite Interactions." Infection, Genetics and Evolution 34 (May 27, 2015): 251-59. Etzel, Ruth A. "Mycotoxins." Jama287, no. 4 (2002): 425. Klassen-Fischer, Mary K. "Fungi as Bioweapons." Clinics in Laboratory Medicine 26, no. 2 (2006): 387-95. "The History of Mold Bioweapons And U.S. Research -- Damage Control 911." By Damage Control-911. August 13, 2018. Zhang, Xiujuan, Kamil Kuča, Vlastimil Dohnal, Lucie Dohnalová, Qinghua Wu, and Chu Wu. "Military Potential of Biological Toxins." Journal of Applied Biomedicine 12, no. 2 (March 1, 2014): 63-77.

The Hidden Weapon  

A Macaulay IDC 3002H Project by Emily Larcher and Kyle Arnold

The Hidden Weapon  

A Macaulay IDC 3002H Project by Emily Larcher and Kyle Arnold