US Army plans to bulk-buy anthrax

September 24, 2005

The US military wants to buy large quantities of anthrax, in a controversial move that is likely to raise questions over its commitment to treaties designed to limit the spread of biological weapons.

A series of contracts have been uncovered that relate to the US army' Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. They ask companies to tender for the production of bulk quantities of a non-virulent strain of anthrax, and for equipment to produce significant volumes of other biological agents. Issued earlier this year, the contracts were discovered by Edward Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project, a US-German organisation that campaigns against the use of biological and chemical weapons.

One "biological services" contract specifies: "The company must have the ability and be willing to grow Bacillus anthracis Sterne strain at 1500-litre quantities." Other contracts are for fermentation equipment for producing 3000-litre batches of an unspecified biological agent, and sheep carcasses to test the efficiency of an incinerator for the disposal of infected livestock.

Although the Sterne strain is not thought to be harmful to humans and is used for vaccination, the contracts have caused major concern. "It raises a serious question over how the US is going to demonstrate its compliance with obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention if it brings these tanks online," says Alan Pearson, programme director for biological and chemical weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Non- Proliferation in Washington DC. "If one can grow the Sterne strain in these units, one could also grow the Ames strain, which is quite lethal." The US renounced biological weapons in 1969, but small quantities of lethal anthrax were still being produced at Dugway as recently as 1998.

It is not known what use the biological agents will be put to. They could be used to test procedures to decontaminate vehicles or buildings, or to test an "agent defeat" warhead designed to destroy stores of chemical and biological weapons. There are even fears that they could be used to determine how effectively anthrax is dispersed when released from bombs or crop-spraying aircraft. "I can definitely see them testing biological weapons delivery systems for threat assessment," says Hammond.

Whatever use it is put to, however, the move could be seen as highly provocative by other nations, he says. "What would happen to the Biological Weapons Convention if other countries followed suit and built large biological production facilities at secretive military bases known for weapons testing?"

A spokesperson for Dugway said the anthrax contract is still at the pre-solicitation stage, and the base has not yet acquired the agent. They refused to say what it will be used for.
-end-
Author: David Hambling

IF REPORTING ON THIS STORY, PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE AND, IF PUBLISHING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A HYPERLINK TO: http://www.newscientist.com

"This article is posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to quote extracts as part of fair dealing with this copyrighted material. Full attribution is required, and if publishing online a link to www.newscientist.com is also required.

The story below is the EXACT text used in New Scientist, therefore advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full. Please contact celia.thomas@rbi.co.uk. Please note that all material is copyright of Reed Business Information Limited and we reserve the right to take such action as we consider appropriate to protect such copyright."

THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN NEW SCIENTIST MAGAZINE ISSUE: 24 SEPTEMBER 2005

New Scientist

Related Biological Agents Articles from Brightsurf:

On the trail of novel infectious agents in wildlife
A research team led by Kristin Mühldorfer from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and Tobias Eisenberg from the Hessian State Laboratory investigated the causes of severe respiratory disease in peccaries and taxonomically characterised a novel Streptococcus species (Streptococcus catagoni sp. nov.) based on its phenotypic properties and genetic features.

Biological control agents can protect soybeans from Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS)
Recently, Mirian Pimentel, a PhD student, and a group of plant pathologists at Southern Illinois University, discovered a promising new tool to fight sudden death syndrome (SDS).

Platinum-based agents not superior to standard chemotherapy
BIDMC clinician-researchers provide new evidence about the optimal way to treat patients who carry BRCA mutations who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Do we trust artificial intelligence agents to mediate conflict? Not entirely
We may listen to facts from Siri or Alexa, or directions from Google Maps or Waze, but would we let a virtual agent enabled by artificial intelligence help mediate conflict among team members?

Genetics may play a role in reaction to CT contrast agents
Researchers in South Korea have found that patients with family and personal history of allergic reactions to contrast media are at risk for future reactions, according to a new large study.

Catalyst renders nerve agents harmless
A team of scientists has studied a catalyst that decomposes nerve agents, eliminating their harmful and lethal effects.

BIODS in search of better non-steroidal, non-acid antiinflammatory agents
Inflammation is defined as the response of immune system cells to damaged or injured tissues.

Nanobot pumps destroy nerve agents
Once in the territory of science fiction, 'nanobots' are closer than ever to becoming a reality, with possible applications in medicine, manufacturing, robotics and fluidics.

Crowd workers, AI make conversational agents smarter
Conversational agents such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana are great at giving you the weather, but are flummoxed when asked for unusual information, or follow-up questions.

Imaging agents developed to better monitor growth of tumours
UAlberta researchers have created two new imaging agents that could help physicians visualize the formation of tumour-associated blood vessels, keep track of tumour growth and possibly generate new therapies.

Read More: Biological Agents News and Biological Agents Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.