The term biological warfare (BW) may cause feelings of terror and horror. The
mere threat of a biological attack can be a psychological weapon that could lead to
collapse of morale and panic. In biological warfare, biological agents are used to
weaken the opposing force. A biological agent is a microorganism that causes disease
in humans, plants, or animals or which causes deterioration in material. Normally, the
term is used to mean a microorganism or the toxin from a microorganism that produces
disease in humans. A biological agent can be used to injure, kill, or weaken soldiers
and reduce their ability to fight.
DISEASE IN WARFARE
Disease has played a very important part in warfare. In most wars, more soldiers
died from disease than were killed by enemy action. Usually, these deaths resulted
from inadequate sanitation and lack of personal hygiene, not from deliberate enemy
planning. There have been a few cases reported in which disease was spread as a
military tactic. Dead animals left in water wells and diseased human corpses thrown
into a city under siege are two methods in which biological warfare has been conducted
in the past. Some reports indicate that Indians in North and South America were given
blankets contaminated by smallpox victims in order to spread the disease among local
populations. Some reports indicate that biological weapons may have been used in
TYPES OF BIOLOGICAL AGENTS
Bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, and toxins may be used as biological agents in
modern warfare. Of these, toxins are probably the most effective.
a. Bacteria. Bacteria are living, one-celled organisms. Often, diseases caused
by bacteria are carried by animals which transmit the disease to man. Examples of
bacterial diseases include anthrax, cholera (actually caused by an enterotoxin produced
by bacteria), dysentery, malaria, meningitis, plague, tularemia, and typhoid.
b. Viruses. Viruses are submicroscopic pathogens composed of nucleic acid
that invade living cells, take over the cell's reproductive function, causes the cell to
reproduce the virus, and eventually destroys the cell. Viruses are often transmitted to
humans by arthropods, rodents, monkeys, and other humans. Examples of viral
diseases include hemorrhagic fever, viral hepatitis, and smallpox.