There is a surmounting fear across the United States concerning the possibility of a bio-terrorist attack. Out breaks of such diseases as the West Nile Virus and Anthrax have had all genre of scientist ranging from biologist and zoologist running back to there microscopes and analyzing anything that could even possibly be used as a biological weapon against the United States.
Though there are catalogs and catalogs that tell of various diseases that have been used as biological weapons down through centuries of hatred and malice, there are still many that have no know cure or treatment.
To really get a firm hold on what the dangers of a bio-terrorist attack on America could mean you first have to know exactly what bio-terrorism is. Essentially bio-terrorism is the use of biological weapons with the intention of genocide or the annihilation of class, gender or race of people. Biological warfare agents are most commonly classified as living microorganisms, such as bacteria, protozoa, rickettsia, viruses or fungi, and toxins produced by microorganisms, plants or animals. Many are in fear of a bio-terrorist attack. Many of the question being asked are, Do we have what it takes to counter a bio-terrorist attack?; Are there vaccines for some of the more prominent biological warfare agents and if so can they be mass produced?; How can we prevent or protect our selves against an agent of biological warfare? Considering the proficiency and lethality of some of these agents these are some very adequate questions.
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No matter how much we know about these agents there are still some that we probably do not know of but of the many that we do know, some of the most lethal are ricin, botulinum, anthrax and tularemia. Ricin is found in the seeds of a plant known as the Castor plant. It is said that just one seed of the plant is enough to kill a child and one kilogram is enough to kill an adult. Anthrax is another lethal disease. Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease that occurs among plant eating animals and is caused by th bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Tularemia caused by Franisella tularensis is also one if the most infectious diseases know to man Tularemia occours naturally in small animals such as mice, squirrels and rabbits. One would contract the disease by way handling and infected animal or being bitten by an infected insect. Botulinum would fall in the category of a toxin. The toxin is usually found in the form of a white powder and is soluble in water and though the toxin decomposes by heat, acidity, and extended exposure to air there are proteins that are believe to stailize the toxin in the digestive tract.
Of the four mentioned the toxins, ricin and botulinum, are the most lethal and effient bio-chemical warfare agents. Most people contract ricin by way of ingesting a castor bean. There is also another toxin present in the castor bean, RCA, which causes red blood cells to agglutinate and burst by hemolysis but it is the ricin that causes abdominal pain, a decrease in blood pressure, and severe vomiting and diarrhea that eventually lead to dehydration and death. Ricin is made up of two different chains; the A chain and the B chain. The A chain is a 267 amino acid globular protein that has 8 alpha helices and 8 beta sheets and the substrate binding site is the cleft marked by the substrate adenine. The B chain is a 262 amino acid protein that is shaped like a barbell. It ahs a binding sit for galactose at each end. These two sites allow hydrogen bonding to specific membrane sugars. Botulinum is usually contracted by way of either ingestion of inhalation.
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