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Our publications keep professionals working across the public, private, and academic sectors informed on the most important developments and issues in health security and biosecurity.

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Title:

Prevention of the Development or Use of Biological Weapons

Authors:
Gigi Gronvall
Date posted:
January 16, 2017
Publication type:
Article
Publication:

Health Security, Vol 15, January 2017

Publisher:
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI:
10.1089/hs.2016.0096
Availability:
Available on Publisher Website
See also:
Introduction:

Preventing the development and use of biological weapons should continue to be a top priority for the nation. There are fundamental issues that make prevention difficult, however. The knowledge, materials, and technologies needed to make and use a biological weapon are readily accessible around the world. Pathogens are ubiquitous in nature and can be found in hospital and research laboratories, scientific culture collections, and in sick people and animals everywhere. It is now possible to synthesize pathogens from scratch, particularly viruses, with technologies that are inexpensive and globally available. The skills and equipment for making a biological weapon are largely the same as those required for progress in medicine, agriculture, and other fields and are required for future economic prosperity for the nation, so they cannot be locked away. Efforts that might be useful in deterring terrorist groups will be different than those targeted toward nation states—and every nation state is presumed to have the technical and financial resources to have a biological weapons program should they choose to embark on one.

In spite of these challenges, the US government has options for increasing the likelihood that biological attacks can be prevented, through maintaining international norms and improving surveillance systems, deterring potential adversaries by demonstrating a strong national response, developing better forensic analysis, generating better intelligence, and implementing sensible security practices for legitimate scientists.

 

 

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