TO DETECT BIOLOGICAL WARFARE AGENTS: EASY OR DIFFICULT?
Por Manuel Cereijo
To detect biological warfare agents is a very serious business, critical to our national security. Continuing research and field trials are made to come up with reliable sensors and instruments to detect these biological agents.
One of the methods consists on collecting and preparing air samples, and then feeding them through diagnostic tests, looking for the bioagents by using highly specific molecular interactions. These devices are designed to determine the type and concentration of the agent within minutes.
There are not yet, portable, fully automated, remote sensing systems that can detect a variety of known and novel biological agents. Biological weapons include bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Existing detection systems are fairly large, and not terribly accurate. They require humans to operate them. Most of them can detect the existence of a bioagent, but can not identify the specific agent.
The detectors now under development fall into three broad classes:
· Biochemical systems which detect a DNA sequence or protein
· Biological tissue-based systems, in which a bioagent through or biotoxin affects live mammalian cells
· Chemical mass spectrometry systems, which break down a sample into its component amino acids.
Present technology permits that complete departments that manufacture bioweapons be mounted on special trailers and be moved around a country. This fact makes even more difficult to detect production of bioweapons.
A biotechnology center that produces bioweapons can not be detected from the air very easily. It could be confused with a pharmaceutical or biotechnology normal plant or center. A biotechnology center that produces bioweapons can not be detected by a simple short tour of the facilities, or by a group meeting with the personnel at the Center.
However, what can be detected from such a visit is the state of the art, the facilities, and the trained personnel that work in the Center. It can also be known what kind of biomaterials, such as vaccines, synthezitation of protein, recombination of enzymes, peptides, proteins, homogenization processes, hydrolysis, filtration, dehydration, etc.
Certainly, any biotechnology industry capable of performing such processes and products, is capable, and can, produce bioweapons.
It can be detected by:
· Human intelligence. Defectors, or other scientists, engineers that somehow have knowledge of what is going on in the pertinent center and have the ethics and the decency to reveal their findings
· In site inspection of the Centers, with specialized scientists and engineers, with high tech equipment, in a task that can last for months.
Appendix : Cuba
1. Cuba has had several defectors or scientists and engineers who worked at some of Cuba's Biotechnology Centers and are presently outside Cuba. They are well known and are in: the U.S.A., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain.They have informed of the capacity of Cuba to produce bioweapons.
2. Cuba, in 1985 decl;ared that it was developing a very large and sophisticated Bioindustry with the objective of becoming the main source of dollars from exports. It did developed it. But it did not become a main source of export dollars
3. The industry has not either produced medicines, vaccines, drugs, for the Cuban people
4. Cuba has spent approximately $3,500 million dollars in these Centers in the last 10 years. Return of this investment has been almost negligible
5. Cuba has entered, since 1982, in bilateral biotechnological agreements with: Soviet Union, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lybia, North Korea. All of these countries are classified as terrorist nations.
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