Chemical, Biological threats a test-expert : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

EXPERT: CHEMICAL, BIOLOGICAL THREATS A TEST By: BETTY WATERS, Staff Writer November 08, 2001 Dr. Steven Kornguth, director of the National Center for Countermeasures to Biological and Chemical Threats, said the nation may be "sorely tested" in the next 12 to 24 months by the threat of chemical/biological terrorism. (Nov. 9, 2001) The nation may be "sorely tested" in the next 12 to 24 months by the threat of chemical/biological terrorism, accentuating the need for more funding for research to turn out new vaccines and strengthen the nation's defenses, an expert told University of Texas system regents who met Thursday in Tyler.

Dr. Steven Kornguth, director of the National Center for Countermeasures to Biological and Chemical Threats, a multi-university consortium headquartered at UT Austin, said the recent intentionally caused anthrax outbreak demonstrated terrorists can disrupt the government and cause deaths and widespread fear by using chemical/biological weapons.

Researchers at the center are now seeking $40 million annually in congressional funding to step up research and production of vaccines, antibodies, antivirals and sensors. The center had requested $9 million prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed over 5,000 people.

Subsequently, Kornguth said, anthrax killed four people and infected about 25 others, stopped the House of Representatives from meeting for weeks, caused the Supreme Court to leave its building, shut down the mail system in Washington and ignited fear across the nation.

Since the number of deaths was low, the U.S. showed it could handle a relatively limited outbreak of anthrax, Kornguth said. The threat of biological/chemical warfare is real and no longer hypothetical, Kornguth said, calling the anthrax outbreak "the first hit."

There are about 100 biological/chemical agents that researchers are concerned about, of which about 50 are bacteria, Kornguth said.

"We are now in a real world battle. We are trying to transition all this technology, which normally takes 10 to 15 years to pipeline."

An outbreak of a virus like smallpox is a potential threat, Kornguth said. It would be catastrophic, with 30-40 percent of people exposed dying, Kornguth said. That could cause the nation's infrastructure to collapse, he said, but predicted leadership and a stable society would re-emerge.

Another threat, Kornguth said, is a naturally occurring illness of the Crimean-Congo hemorrhage fever in Afghanistan that may confront American troops.

With increased funding and expedited approval through the U.S. Food and Drug Department, Kornguth said researchers in a few years could produce vaccines for threat agents, antivirus for smallpox, sensors, etc.

The biological and chemical countermeasures program at the Institute for Advanced Technologies at UT Austin is "the premier program" of its type in the nation, Kornguth said. It focuses on prevention, testing, detection, containment/treatment, education, communication and other aspects of the program to protect the country from biological or chemical agents.

"We have been funded two years, but we have been around three years," Kornguth said.

The effort to combat biological/chemical threats evolved, Kornguth said, after various countries developed biological offensive capability after World War II. By 1968, the U.S. recognized biological/chemical agents could not be used as a strategic weapon because of the possibility they would blow back on the nation's own forces, he said.

The U.S. banned it in the early 1970s and focused only on defensive biological and chemical capability, Kornguth said. But, he said, evidence surfaced in 1975 that the Soviet Union had an anthrax production program and in the late 1980s that Iraq also had used chemical weapons. Japanese terrorists used chemical weapons six times in Japan in the 1980s.

"By that time, I believed somebody would use it against the U.S. at some point and that is why we initiated the program," Kornguth said.

In addition to involving several UT campuses, the consortium works with the Army, FBI, Texas National Guard, health departments and others.

-- Martin Thompson (, November 09, 2001


This, to me, is the most fearful threat of terrorism. This is why it is vital that we forge ahead and attack any state-sponsored biological/chemical weapons program. Starting with Iraq, I'd say we should demand that they allow the U.N. inspectors to re-enter, with full latitude in conducting searches, or suffer the consequences.

-- BIg Cheese (, November 09, 2001.

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