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Australia's First Bioterrorism Attack

Now, I never condone biological warfare. It's bad ju ju and I am morally opposed to it, especially as a microbiologist. That being said however...

I find the 'attack' on the Indonesian embassy kind of amusing, in a black humour kind of way. I mean, really, I just know how sensationalised this event is going to be, and how much work is is practically going to guarantee me and people like me in the future... and it's all due to that silly girl (silly for getting caught or silly for going about the trial the way she did) Schappelle oh-what-an-odd-name-I-have Corby.

I'm not too fussed about the incident itself because, quite frankly, I'm pretty sure that the "Bacillus-type bacteral powder" is going to turn out to not be anthrax. And even if it were anthrax, the chances of it making anyone ill are pretty darn slim, particularly because I'm sure anyone who came in contact with it is already on antibiotics and thus, largely, completely protected from disease.

I mean, really, Bacillus is so dull, old-school, and really not as scary as people make out. And none-too-hard to grow, either. Cook some brown rice, then leave it in a warm place for a few days. Boom - you have yourself some Bacillus which can make people very, very sick (if they eat it). Welcome to the world of bioterrorism.

This is what people don't seem to understand. Bacteria cover everything. EVERYTHING. That whole thing about washing your hands ater you go to the bathroom? Within a couple of hours your hands are going to be covered with bacteria from your unmentionables anyway, because unless you autoclaved your hands (not advisable), you're going to leave viable bacteria/spores behind which will just grow back. Did you know that one of the nastiest lower-respiratory tract disease causing bugs is found naturally in the nose?

I mean, these people (who ever they are) aren't even *trying*. That and they have doomed the little miss Corby to certain further imprisonment - no government these days buckles under such petty threats. And what is more petty that a Bacillus?! (Well, maybe E. coli, I suppose...) For the love of Koch, Australia is host to one of the most unpleasant non-heamorrhagic visuses I have ever heard of from a readily easily-accessable source - much easier than growing enough Bacillus spores to make a frightening amount of 'white powder of biological origin'.

I am full of contempt for the entire situation. Although, I tip my hat to the emergency responce teams; they seem to have done an excellent job.

Comments

miss_rynn
Jun. 2nd, 2005 05:41 am (UTC)
Did you hear about those virologists in America who wanted to prove a point? They ordered different strings of DNA sequences from the same company of something like 500-1000 bp long. Then they assembled these sequences together in a lab.

And made small pox.

Laws about such things have now been changed (because, you know, they scientists DID make their point)... but still. If they could do it, how hard would it be for someone with a DNA synthesizer to do it?
designadrug
Jun. 2nd, 2005 06:31 am (UTC)
I was thinking about Smallpox when I was talking about weapon vs terror...

What you say is scary. Or it would be if I was born after 1976, or after 1965 in the USA (unless I was a US serviceman at some point).

:P

With a synthesiser? It'd be damn hard to stuff it up. And chicken pox is close enough if you want to introduce it to a vector for the 0th generation.

Gods. Now I'm really thinking about how easy it would be. The genomic data is public domain, the synthesiser is only a couple of grand, PCR amplifiers are a dime a dozen, reagents are cheap-ish. Holy shit, there are few controls if any on any of that gear.

Shit, having really thought it I'm now in favour of mandatory licensing for DNA synthesisers and PCR amplifiers. Fuck it - PCR is so damn simple you can do it on your kitchen stove with a saucepan and a thermometer. The DNA and RNA primers would be where control would be at...yeah license the synthesisers. Transfecting gear is dirt simple too. Yikes. And I used to point out to people how simple atomic bombs are. This is baaaad.

Bit of research and we could get a paper or a newspaper article out of this line of thinking...
miss_rynn
Jun. 2nd, 2005 11:42 pm (UTC)
Yup. It's funny, because Smallpox is such a tiny little virus. :)

And I'm pretty sure I was vaccinated against it a long time ago (what with living in african countries and all)... as well as tuberculosis twice. That's a funny story, you see, because they thought I had it when they vaccinated me the second time. Mmmm - chest X-rays.
designadrug
Jun. 3rd, 2005 01:10 am (UTC)
In the USA large scale vaccination programmes finished in about 1965. Most of the rest of the world it was 1976. The US still vaccinate their servicemen against it.

Considering your age, you'd would be a lucky camper indeed if you were immunised. Congratulations.

I was once talking a friend and she was saying how she was getting her kids vaccinated against measles and chickenpox. I couldn't believe it. I mean, when I was a kid those diseases were more a *nuisence* that anything else. "Your cousin has Chicken Pox, go play with her."