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Biological warfare and biochemistry effects in humans

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I need help with a report on biological warfare and include the medical impact (effects of the anthrax or nerve gas) and also the structure of the agent (I think there is an anthrax coat protein on the Protein Data Bank now) or target
(acetylcholinesterase - a bunch of structures are on the PDB).

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Solution Summary

This solution explains in 4,482 words the history of anthrax as a biological weapon, how it is dispersed, how it affects humans, and its treatment. It discusses in detail the biochemistry of anthrax, protective antigens, lethal factor, edema factor, and anthrax spores. Along with the text answer, two .jpg diagrams are attached along with a .doc file.

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The recent terrorist threats and confirmed cases of exposure to anthrax have caused an increase in anxiety over the possibility of attacks using chemical and biological agents (CBA.) Currently, the method of delivery of anthrax has been by letter or package. While the risk of such attacks is limited, it cannot be excluded.

Anthrax, a disease of mammals (including humans), is caused by a spore-forming Gram-positive bacilli called Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax is one of the oldest threats to humanity, and remains endemic in animals in many parts of the world. The incidence of anthrax has decreased in developed countries, but it remains a considerable health problem in developing countries. The disease is transmitted to humans by contact with sick animals or their products, such as wool, skin, meat, etc. Capsular polypeptide and anthrax toxin are the principal virulence factors of B. anthracis. Anthrax toxin consists of three proteins called protective antigen, edema factor, and lethal factor, each of which is nontoxic but acts synergistically. Human anthrax has three major clinical forms: cutaneous, inhalational, and gastrointestinal. The diagnosis is easily established in cutaneous cases, characterized by black eschar. Severe intoxication and collapse during the course of bronchopneumonia or hemorrhagic enteritis should prompt suspicion of anthrax. Treatment with antibiotics is mandatory. If untreated, anthrax in all forms can lead to septicemia and death. Recently, considerable attention has been focused on the potential for B. anthracis to be used in acts of biological terrorism. The ease of laboratory production and its dissemination via aerosol led to its adoption by terrorists, as shown by recent events in the USA.


A. Biological agents can be dispersed by an aerosol spray which must be inhaled. However, these agents can also be used to contaminate food, water and other products. Attention to basic food hygiene when traveling abroad is very important.

B. Some chemical agents may be volatile--evaporating rapidly to form clouds of agent. Others may be persistent. These agents may act directly on the skin, lungs, eyes, respiratory tract or be absorbed through your skin and lungs, causing injury. Choking and nerve agents damage the soft tissue in these organs.

C. When properly used, appropriate masks are effective protection to prevent the inhalation of either biological or chemical agents; however, this assumes an adequate warning. Gas masks alone do not protect against agents that act through skin absorption. Those who wish to acquire protective equipment for personal use should contact commercial vendors.

D. There is an incubation period after exposure to biological agents. It is essential that you seek appropriate care for illnesses acquired while traveling abroad to assure prompt diagnosis and treatment.

E. One of the biological agents is the spore-forming bacterium that causes Anthrax, an acute infectious disease. It should be noted; however, that effective dispersal of the Anthrax bacteria is difficult.

Anthrax is treatable if that treatment is initiated promptly after exposure. The post-exposure treatment consists of certain antibiotics administered in combination with the vaccine.

An anthrax vaccine that confers protective immunity does exist, but is not readily available to private parties. Efficacy and safety of use of this vaccine for persons under 18 or over 65 and pregnant women have not been determined.

The anthrax vaccine is produced exclusively by Bioport under contract to the Department of Defense. Virtually all vaccine produced in the United States is under Defense Department contract primarily for military use and a small number of other official government uses.

For additional information, please consult your health care provider or local health authority.


The history of use of chemical and biological warfare is quite long, but it isn't until the early history that it has become a more severe problem. Below is the story from the time of the Roman empire until the Gulf war and how things have evolved during that time.

The first recorded use of biological agents is when the Romans used dead animals to contaminate their enemy's water supply. This had the effects of decreasing enemy numbers and also lowering their morale. The idea behind this kind of attack is that a weakened enemy is an easily defeated enemy.

The Tartars had the idea of infecting the enemy by catapulting bodies infected with bubonic plague over the walls of the city of Kaffa (southern Ukraine). Some historians believe that this event was the cause of the epidemic of plague that swept across medieval Europe, killing 25 million.

A more "recent" use of a biological weapon involves the British during the French-Indian War (1754-63). The Native Americans greatly outnumbered the British and were suspected of being on the side of the French. As an "act of good will" the British gave blankets to the Indians, but the blankets came from a hospital that was treating smallpox victims and consequently smallpox raged through the Native American community and devastated their numbers.

The earliest large-scale use of chemical warfare agents was during World War I. It was sporadically carried out by both sides by the use of various tear gases in artillery and other projectiles starting in 1914. It was the Germans who eventually initiated a more massive use of the agents by releasing chlorine gas in an attack against the front in Ypres, April 22, 1915. Thousands of cylinders of the gas was released along the six-kilometer (four-mile) long front line, and the wind-bore cloud successfully broke the line of the French Territorial and Algerial, but the attackers failed in taking advantage of the situation.

Although numerous attacks were carried out on both sides, they were seldom successful, much due to the introduction of gas masks and other protective measures. As other gases, eg. mustard gas and more effective ways of using them was introduced, better defenses were developed.

More than 100,000 tons of chemical warfare agents were used in World War I, but they never became an important weapon, mostly because of the ...

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