THE WEAPONS OF A BIOLOGICAL WARFARE: BIOWEAPONS

Well, the world has undergone a huge transformation and everything starting from our lifestyle to technology has changed. We no more use room sized computer systems but sleek
“mobile” devices and they don’t just perform arithmetic operations anymore, but they are the ultimate human assistance devices!

From deciding our diets to guiding us routes, they do it all in a click! When to wake up and when to sleep, when to work out and what to eat, everything is decided by handful of devices and we have definitely come a long way!

Amidst all these wonderful changes, another important aspect has also changed.

Can you guess what it could be?

Yes, you’re right! The weapons used in warfare. Starting from stone and hunting weapons to nuclear bombs, the world has witnessed a huge variety of weapons being used by warriors in different regions. When gunpowder was invented in almost 800-1200BC, fire arms became a buzz and people thought there could be nothing as dangerous as cannons and firearms.  Eventually, automatic machine guns and tanks were introduced and nuclear weaponry came ushered after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed on 6th and 9th August 1945, portraying modern weapons as a big deal. Since then, fusion bombs, ray guns, lasers and many other weapons are a symbol of any nation’s strength!

Figure 1 The evolution of weaponry in different eras Source: https://steemitimages.com/DQmd9Pv1fNbTQxFfXpgunJcMLDdit84PvKLyyqSfpEEFvfj/stock-vector-development-of-weapons-115484086.jpg

All this time, we forgot to appreciate the beauty and strength of “nature”, and hence nature shows us a trailer to the movie we hope, we never have to watch. So, here’s presenting the brand-new movie called the “Bio warfare” based on the concept of bioweapons starring microorganisms. I know, you must be thinking what a dramatic introduction this was.

Well, the introduction is just a trailer, you’re yet to witness the strength of bioweapons in the next few lines of text.

Figure 2 Bioweapons, the invisible killers Source: https://www.globalresearch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/pentagon-bioweapons-400×225.jpg

So, let’s start with a very basic but very important question. What are bioweapons?

For understanding bioweapons, we need to know the elementary units of bioweapons- “Microorganisms”. These are microscopic creatures like virus, fungi, bacteria and other toxins which are popularly called the “invisible devils” these days. These microorganisms, when purposely produced and released to cause harm to humanity, animal and plant species, are called bioweapons.

Figure 3 These colourful microorganisms are the reason behind the colourless lives of many victims across globe Source: https://image.freepik.com/free-vector/bacteria-germs-colorful-set-micro-organisms-disease-causing-objects-bacteria-viruses-pandemic-microbes-fungi_102902-39.jpg

The traditional application of such bioweapons is the contamination or poisoning of living bodies including human cells, plants and animal exposed to the diseases they cause.  Such biological agents are very dangerous because they spread the disease in a very short time, causing epidemics, and are very hard to contain. The release of such engineered viruses with an intention of bioterrorism has devasted many lives and economies till date. While bioterrorism might sound like a dramatic plot but it is a brutal reality that has led to mass destruction whenever it came into existence.

So, basically bioweapon threats involve the deliberate release of “biological attackers” in order to cause one or more diseases. These biological agents are categorized based on the risk they pose to the national security and health of people where category A agents are highest priority and have a high potential to cause destruction and mortality as they spread from person to person. These generally come as epidemics. Category B agents are moderate priority agents that are easy to disseminate and cause comparatively lesser mortality rates and category C agents are the potential agents that can cause mass disruption in the future.

Biological products, infectious substances and microorganisms engineered to cause a disease or death or malfunction in humans, animals, plants and other living organisms is indeed disastrous. We are still witnessing this terror in the form of corona virus or COVID-19 as they call it.

Figure 4 This is what the terrorists look like Source: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcRYSgoz0g3aTpqgc4eLKlSb61NchQFaK-Y26MYGlUZ_-scrD0GX&usqp=CAU

Well, various perspectives have been proposed by critics, doctors, scientists and other elites regarding the origin and spread of corona virus. While some call it a bioweapon developed and released by China in order to shatter the world economy and superpower others say that it is naturally caused due to the genetic mutation of animal species which are openly sold in the live animal market of Wuhan in China. There is another set of intellectuals that call this disease a return gift from nature and think that it has been developed by God to teach humans a lesson. It is very hard to determine and comment on what, when and how caused corona virus to become a terrible pandemic that has disrupted our normal going lives and put almost all the countries across globe into trouble. Lockdowns across countries, social distancing and sanitization took a lead, no one was concerned about traffic jams, fast food, fast lifestyle and economy! Test kits, ventilators, medication and vaccines are to decide the future of the world and an unsolicited lesson brought about a disaster. Must say, innovation has brought us to a position that we are capable of creating “innovative” ways for killing each other using each other! The indiscriminate nature of these weapons and their ability to cause uncontrollable pandemics solidify the fact that we can engineer biological matter for mass destruction but when it comes to engineering the victims back to life, the challenge is real.

Figure 5 The message these pictures indicate: Corona virus has helped the environment heal from the heavy damage we have been doing to it and causes heavy damage to human life. Source: Multiple sources from Wikipedia

“When we were free to go out and live our lives, on our terms, the environment was exploited and faced a terrible degradation. Now that we are captured by the deadly virus and are locked up, the environment is healing.”

Got the message?

We are experiencing the same “existential crisis” that we once gifted our environment.

I must say, the environment got a break from the routine of correcting all the wrong we humans did. In our busy lives, we never bothered to keep ourselves and our surroundings so clean, the blue sky never looked blue and the water bodies never lacked pollution. This time around, we wake up to a clear and really “blue” sky, pollution free fresh air streaming straight into our lungs and birds chirping merrily. So, what is a disaster for us, is definitely a rejuvenation time for our environment. And this, by far, is the only positive aspect that a bio war carries.

I might not be able to give you a complete medical perspective about all the bioweapons created and released across globe till date, but some of the insane biological agents that caused epidemics in the recent years include:

(1) Small Pox

(2) Plague

(3) Anthrax

(4) Ebola

(5) Yellow fever

(6) Tuberculosis

(7) Alphaviruses

(8) Chorea

(9) Hantavirus

And the newest member added- (10) COVID-19/ Corona Virus

You can explore more about all these bioweapons by clicking on the link- https://www.who.int/csr/delibepidemics/disease/en/

The sad truth is that these bioweapons are extensively used for economic sabotage against nations by directly hitting the agriculture and livestock industries.

Figure 6 Bio wars target agriculture and industries of a country Source: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcTmYVO_AVAWCO6L_ZtwrUOvIBPq5jfKHosjoQPBLvMWg9THeT6k&usqp=CAU 

Ever wondered, in the earlier days of the pandemic spread, why chicken was sold at Rs 100 per kg, which used to cost a lot more before the spread of corona virus? Well, that’s because they were considered the reason behind the pandemic spread. Countries are hard hit by the virus so much so that the markets are shut and we are struggling to develop an advanced, more shielded and robust medical infrastructure and equipment. The hard blow on economy is still not the primary concern because there are bigger issues to look at.

Think about those who work on daily wages? How lockdown must have affected their lives. The government policies and promises kept aside, have you thought about their survival in this time of crisis?

It is very hard!

What about those who are stuck in other states for earning a livelihood and are unable to reach their hometowns because of complete shut down? Sanitization would be their last concern because they are not only fighting against corona, but are fighting for food and shelter also.

Figure 7 Condition of poor at the time of epidemic Source: Wikipedia

It is not only a matter of national security, economy and distress but it is more about making people helpless. Such pandemics attack humanity at the core and shackles it to death.

This virus, like most bioweapons, has taken many lives. Thousands and lacks of people are still struggling with it. Frontline doctors and medical servants are fighting with this deadly pandemic and trying to save the victims. Right now, what we need is a “vaccine” that can help the patients fighting with corona. In the history of bio-wars and pandemics, the world has always fought back with a suitable vaccine and technology. Scientists, doctors and intellectuals across globe are frantically searching for a rescue, which can end the terror and reign of this deadly virus. Whatever be the cause, our current priority is to stop this virus from spreading and cure the victims so that they spring back to life.  

So, we, as engineers and technicians have a big role to play. What is keeping the patients alive is the medical equipment backed by technical robustness. Ventilators, medical infrastructure, wireless sensor networks and medical devices are some examples. On one hand, we are quickly incorporating advanced medical equipment in our hospitals and on other hand Maruti Suzuki industry has be put to work, developing more and more ventilators for facing the crisis. We are highly dependent on the technical advancements that can save lives! We need to understand that these technical instruments and applications are the hope to many and will certainly save life when associated with the right medical knowledge. WE HAVE A BIG ROLE TO PLAY.

Figure 8 Making our medical system strong by incorporating latest technologies Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-virus-spreads-governments-rush-to-secure-ventilators-11584297363

This is not just a blog, but a note of motivation to all those who aspire to become future technicians, developers, researchers and scientists. It is high time we realise that our lifestyle is year to attract many more pandemics ahead. For this generation, this is just the trailer. But we shouldn’t be scared of that because all of this is a consequence of our deeds and we have to share the responsibility of the by-product. Our goal is- The next time this happens, we should be prepared already!

Change is necessary. Development is never going to stop. Our greed, in fact, is never ending. And so, we will progress towards luxury. So, it is obvious that we will be inundated by such pandemics many times in the future. What we need is PREPARATION, the key to which is REALIZATION! This is why we insist students to grow up as responsible citizens and professionals groomed with holistic knowledge and practice so that they develop resources that will save humanity and environment in case of crisis.