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Anthrax is currently considered one of the most serious bioterrorism threats. Beginning in the second half of the 20th Century, B. anthracis was developed by several countries as part of their biological weapons (BW) programs, and autonomous groups have also demonstrated the intent to use the bacterium in acts of terrorism.
Botulinum toxins pose a major threat as biological weapons because they are extremely potent and lethal; some of the toxins are relatively easy to produce and transport; and people with botulism require prolonged intensive hospital care.
Glanders is caused by infection with the bacterium Burkholderia mallei, and melioidosis is caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei. Both have the potential to produce fatal disease and have been identified by the CDC as Category B biological agents. HHS has identified these diseases as top priorities for development of medical countermeasures.
Cyanide is a naturally occurring chemical, found in many plants, that has been used in conventional warfare and poisoning for 2 millennia. It is highly lethal, whether inhaled as a gas, ingested in solid form, or absorbed through topical exposure. Two notorious incidents in recent history—the Jonestown Massacre in 1978 and the Tylenol poisonings in 1982—highlight the lethality of this poison.