Global & Disaster Medicine

Synthetic Bioterrorism: New genetic tools are making it easier and cheaper to engineer viruses and bacteria in the lab and potentially making them more contagious and lethal.


Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology:

ISBN 978-0-309-46518-2 | DOI 10.17226/24890
Committee on Strategies for Identifying and Addressing Potential Biodefense
Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology; Board on Chemical Sciences and
Technology; Board on Life Sciences; Division on Earth and Life Studies;
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

One danger is making existing bacteria or viruses more dangerous by giving them antibiotic resistance or altering them so that they produce toxins or evade vaccines.

“… a table-top exercise conducted last month by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security…..experts in pandemic response and national security grappled with a fictional virus called “Clade X” that was created by a terrorist group that inserted genetic elements of deadly Nipah virus into a normally-mild human parainfluenza virus.

The terrorist group in this scenario wanted to depopulate the Earth, and deliberately released the contagious virus at multiple spots around the globe. The resulting pandemic killed 150 million people within a year as officials struggled to contain the social and economic chaos until a vaccine could be made…….”

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