July 14, 2010
The United States has received 1 million doses of a new smallpox vaccine for the Strategic National Stockpile, Danish manufacturer Bavarian Nordic announced yesterday (see GSN, July 2).
Imvamune was created under Project Bioshield, a federal program to boost U.S. defenses against biological weapons and other WMD agents by financing the development and acquisition of medical countermeasures (see GSN, July 13).
Bavarian Nordic is contracted through the Health and Human Services Department's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to manufacture 20 million Imvamune doses for the national stockpile. As many as 60 million additional doses could be ordered under the agreement.
"We are gratified that the U.S. government has added our vaccine to the Strategic National Stockpile," company president and chief executive officer Anders Hedegaard said in a released statement. "This represents a significant milestone for our company, our first major sale to the U.S."
Imvamune is dissimilar to traditional smallpox vaccines in that it does not produce copies of itself in human cells, which negates the possibility of unintended infection caused by the vaccine's strain of vaccinia virus, the company said.
Smallpox vaccines held in reserve today that do self-replicate are judged to be unsuitable for as many as one in four potential users who could have compromised immune systems or other ailments that would put them at risk for infection from the vaccinia virus. At this time, stockpiled Imvamune is designated for use during a crisis by individuals with weakened immune systems.
"Our partnership with [the National Institutes of Health], BARDA and HHS over the recent years is a case study in successful public-private partnerships to combat bioterrorism," Hedegaard said (Bavarian Nordic release, July 13).
September 4, 2009
Interesting subject. Could you explain us ignorant folk, just how it relates to terrorism?
Sometimes it's like you just randomly post articles and place them in threads and/or forums that don't make any sense.
So anyway, I'm sure I missed something, so could you fill in the blanks for me? I'm just a dumb ol' American anway.
Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man. - Albert Einstein
"frrostedman" wrote: Interesting subject. Could you explain us ignorant folk, just how it relates to terrorism?
Sometimes it's like you just randomly post articles and place them in threads and/or forums that don't make any sense.
So anyway, I'm sure I missed something, so could you fill in the blanks for me? I'm just a dumb ol' American anway.
MY GOD .....
How do you not know these things.
Small pox can be used as a biological weapon in so many ways.
& in the same way any virus can be used as a weapon.
The British at least considered using smallpox as a biological warfare agent at the Siege of Fort Pitt during the French and Indian Wars (1754–63) against France and its Native American allies . Although it is not clear whether the actual use of smallpox had official sanction, on June 24, 1763, William Trent, a local trader, wrote, "Out of our regard for them [sc. representatives of the besieging Delawares], we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."  Historians do not agree on whether this effort to broadcast the disease was successful. It has also been alleged that smallpox was used as a weapon during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83).
During World War II, scientists from the United Kingdom, United States and Japan were involved in research into producing a biological weapon from smallpox. Plans of large scale production were never carried through as they considered that the weapon would not be very effective due to the wide-scale availability of a vaccine.
In 1947 the Soviet Union established a smallpox weapons factory in the city of Zagorsk, 75 km to the northeast of Moscow.. An outbreak of weaponized smallpox possibly occurred during testing at the factory in the 1970s. General Prof. Peter Burgasov, former Chief Sanitary Physician of the Soviet Army and a senior researcher within the Soviet program of biological weapons, described the incident:
“On Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea, the strongest recipes of smallpox were tested. Suddenly I was informed that there were mysterious cases of mortalities in Aralsk. A research ship of the Aral fleet came to within 15 km of the island (it was forbidden to come any closer than 40 km). The lab technician of this ship took samples of plankton twice a day from the top deck. The smallpox formulation—400 gr. of which was exploded on the island—”got her” and she became infected. After returning home to Aralsk, she infected several people including children. All of them died. I suspected the reason for this and called the Chief of General Staff of Ministry of Defense and requested to forbid the stop of the Alma-Ata—Moscow train in Aralsk. As a result, the epidemic around the country was prevented. I called Andropov, who at that time was Chief of KGB, and informed him of the exclusive recipe of smallpox obtained on Vozrazhdenie Island.”
Others contend that the first patient may have contracted the disease while visiting Uyaly or Komsomolsk, two cities where the boat docked.
Responding to international pressures, in 1991 the Soviet government allowed a joint US-British inspection team to tour four of its main weapons facilities at Biopreparat. The inspectors were met with evasion and denials from the Soviet scientists, and were eventually ordered out of the facility. In 1992 Soviet defector Ken Alibek confirmed that the Soviet bioweapons program at Zagorsk had produced a large stockpile—as much as twenty tons—of weaponized smallpox (possibly engineered to resist vaccines), along with refrigerated warheads to deliver it. It is not known whether these stockpiles still exist in Russia. In 1997, however, the Russian government announced that all of its remaining smallpox samples would be moved to the Vector Institute in Koltsovo. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and unemployment of many of the weapons program's scientists, there is concern that smallpox and the expertise to weaponize it may have become available to other governments or terrorist groups who might wish to use virus as means of biological warfare.
Concern has been expressed by the possibility to use artificial gene synthesis from existing digital genomes of the smallpox virus to recreate the virus for use in biological warfare. Insertion of the synthesized smallpox DNA into existing related pox viruses could theoretically be used to recreate the virus.
Smallpox as a Weapon
Despite international success in eradicating smallpox, the variola virus remains a hazardous, Category A (CDC category) biological warfare agent. During World War II, the US and UK considered weaponizing smallpox, but with smallpox vaccines readily available, decided smallpox would be ineffective as a weapon.
During the Cold War, in 1974, the Soviet Union initiated Biopreparat, a civilian pharmaceutical company, as a front for the Soviet biological weapons program. Vladimir Pasechnik, a Soviet microbiologist who defected in 1989, provided information on the Soviet development of India 67 or India 1, a particularly virulent strain of smallpox, as a biological weapon. Scientists used embryonic chicken eggs to cultivate large amounts of smallpox virus. In addition, Dr. Ken Alibek (formerly Kanatjan Alikbekov), the former First Deputy Director of Biopreparat, reported the Soviet development of chimera viruses by inserting genetic material from other viruses into smallpox.
Reports suggested that the North Korean biological weapons program conducted research on smallpox as a possible biological agent. Widespread fears remain that the smallpox virus can be used as a weapon of bioterrorism as populations are no longer vaccinated against the virus.
Dr. Frank Macfarlane Burnet
OM, AK, KBE (3 September 1899 – 31 August 1985), usually known as Macfarlane or Mac Burnet, was an Australian virologist best known for his contributions to immunology. Burnet received his M.D. degree from the University of Melbourne in 1924, and his Ph.D. degree from the University of London in 1928. He went on to conduct pioneering research on bacteriophages and viruses at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne, and served as director of the Institute from 1944 to 1965. His virology research resulted in significant discoveries concerning the nature and replication of viruses and their interaction with the immune system.
From the mid-1950s, he worked extensively in immunology and was a major contributor to the theory of clonal selection, which explains how lymphocytes target antigens for destruction. Burnet and Peter Medawar were co-recipients of the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for demonstrating acquired immune tolerance. This research provided the experimental basis for inducing immune tolerance, the platform for developing ubiquitous methods of transplanting solid organs.
Burnet left the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1965; he continued to work at the University of Melbourne until his official retirement in 1978. During his working life he wrote 31 books and monographs and upwards of 500 scientific papers. Burnet played an active role in the development of public policy for the medical sciences in Australia and was a founding member, and later the president, of the Australian Academy of Science. He was the most highly decorated and honoured scientist to have worked in Australia. For his contributions to Australian science, he was made the first Australian of the Year in 1960, and in 1978 a Knight of the Order of Australia. He was recognised internationally for his achievements: in addition to the Nobel, he received the Lasker Award and the Royal and Copley Medal from the Royal Society, honorary doctorates, and distinguished service honours from the Commonwealth and Japan.
Burnet was born in Traralgon, Victoria; his father, Frank Burnet, a Scottish emigrant to Australia, was the manager of the Traralgon branch of the Colonial Bank. He was the second of seven children and from childhood was known as "Mac". The Burnets moved to Terang in 1909. Burnet was interested in the wildlife around the nearby lake; he joined the Scouts in 1910 and enjoyed all outdoor activities. While living in Terang, he began to collect beetles and study biology. He read biology articles in the Chambers's Encyclopaedia, which introduced him to the work of Charles Darwin. He was educated at Victorian state schools and later won a full scholarship to board and study at Geelong College, one of Victoria's most exclusive private schools.
From 1917, Burnet attended the University of Melbourne, where he lived in Ormond College on a residential scholarship and studied medicine. There, he read more of Darwin’s work and was influenced by the ideas of science and society in the writings of H.G. Wells. While at university, he became an agnostic; he was sceptical of religious faith, which he regarded as "an effort to believe what common sense tells you isn't true."
The length of time required to study medicine had been reduced to train doctors faster following the outbreak of World War I, and Burnet graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery in 1922, and as a Doctor of Medicine late in 1924. In 1924 he was appointed resident pathologist at the Melbourne Hospital; the laboratories were a part of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. He conducted research into the agglutinin reactions in typhoid fever, leading to his first scientific publications.
The director of the Institute, Charles Kellaway, thought that Burnet would need experience working in a laboratory in England before he could lead his own research group in Australia. Burnet left Australia for England in 1925 and served as ship's surgeon during his journey. On arrival, he took a paid position assisting the curator of the National Collection of Type Cultures at the Lister Institute in London. He was awarded the Beit memorial fellowship by the Lister Institute in 1926 and began full-time research on bacteriophages. For this work he received a PhD from the University of London in 1928 and was invited to write a chapter on bacteriophages for the Medical Research Council's System of Bacteriology. While in London, Burnet became engaged to fellow Australian Edith Linda Druce. They married in 1928 after returning to Australia, and had a son and two daughters.
Virology and medicine
When Burnet returned to Australia, he went back to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, where he was appointed assistant director. His first assignment was to investigate the "Bundaberg disaster", in which 12 children had died after receiving a contaminated diphtheria vaccine. He identified Staphylococcus aureus in the toxin-antitoxin mixture that had been administered to the children, although it turned out to be another toxin that had caused the children's deaths; this work on staphylococcal toxin piqued his interest in immunology.
During this time, he continued to study bacteriophages, writing 32 papers on phages between 1924 and 1937. In 1929, Burnet and his graduate assistant Margot McKie wrote a paper suggesting that bacteriophages could exist as a stable non-infectious form that multiplies with the bacterial host. Their pioneering description of lysogeny was not accepted until much later, and was crucial to the work of Max Delbrück, Alfred Hershey and Salvador Luria on the replication mechanism and genetics of viruses, for which they were awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Between 1932 and 1933, Burnet took leave of absence to undertake a fellowship at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. He made several Significant breakthroughs in virology while he was there, including the isolation and first demonstration of the transmission of the influenza virus.
His own research was on the canarypox virus, which he used in developing a chick embryo assay for the isolation and quantification of animal viruses. When Burnet returned to Australia, he continued his work on virology, including the epidemiology of herpes simplex. He was also involved in two projects that were not viral, the characterisation of the causative agents of psittacosis and Q fever.
During the time he worked on Q fever with Australian scientist E.H. Derrick, the causative organism of which was named Coxiella burnetii in Burnet's honour, he became the first person to acquire the disease in the lab.
His epidemiological studies of herpes and Q fever displayed an appreciation of the ecology of infectious disease that became a characteristic of his scientific method.
During World War II, Burnet's research moved to influenza and scrub typhus. His first book, Biological Aspects of Infectious Disease, was published in 1940. In 1942 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1944 he travelled to Harvard University to deliver the Dunham Lectures. There he was offered a chair, but he refused and returned to Australia. In 1944, he was appointed director of the Institute when Kellaway was appointed director of the Wellcome Foundation. Under Burnet's direction, scientists at the Institute made significant contributions to infectious disease research during a period that has been called the "golden age of virology". Virologists including Alick Isaacs, Gordon Ada, John Cairns, Stephen Fazekas de St. Groth, and Frank Fenner made significant contributions on Murray Valley encephalitis, myxomatosis, poliomyelitis, poxviruses, herpes and influenza.
Burnet made significant contributions to influenza research; he developed techniques to grow and study the virus, including hemagglutination assays. He worked on a live vaccine against influenza, but the vaccine was unsuccessful when tested during World War II. His interest in the influenza receptor led him to discover the neuraminidase that is secreted by Vibrio cholerae, which later provided the foundation for Alfred Gottschalk's significant work on glycoproteins and the neuraminidase substrate, sialic acid. Between 1951 and 1956, Burnet worked on the genetics of influenza. He examined the genetic control of virulence and demonstrated that the virus recombined at high frequency; this observation was not fully appreciated until several years later, when the segmented genome of influenza was demonstrated.
Public health and policy
From 1937 Burnet was involved in a variety of scientific and public policy bodies. After he became the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1944, he was considered a public figure and overcame shyness to become a good public speaker. He recognised the importance of co-operation with the media if the general public was to understand science and scientists, and his writings and lectures played an important part in the formulation of public attitudes and policy in Australia on a variety of biological topics.
Burnet served as a member or chairman of scientific committees, both in Australia and overseas. Between 1947 and 1953, he was a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council – Medical Research Advisory Committee. The committee advised on funding for medical research in Australia. During this same period (1947–52), he was also a member of the Commonwealth government's Defence Research and Development Policy Committee. Declassified files from this committee show that Burnet made the recommendation that Australia pursue development of chemical and biological weapons to target neighbouring countries' food stocks and spread infectious diseases. Between 1955 and 1959, he was chairman of the Australian Radiation Advisory Committee; he was concerned that Australians were being exposed to unnecessary medical and industrial radiation.
Internationally, Burnet was a chairman of the Papua New Guinea Medical Research Advisory Committee between 1962 and 1969. His role on the committee allowed him to explore his interest in human biology. He was particularly interested in kuru (laughing sickness), and lobbied the Australian government to establish the Papua New Guinea Institute of Human Biology. Burnet served as first chair for the Commonwealth Foundation (1966–69), a Commonwealth initiative to foster interaction between the member countries' elite, and he was also active in the World Health Organization, serving on the Expert Advisory Panels on Virus Diseases and on Immunology between 1952 and 1969 and the World Health Organization Medical Research Advisory Committee between 1969 and 1973.
Honours and legacy
Burnet received extensive honours for his contributions to science and public life during his lifetime. He was made Knight Bachelor in the 1951 New Year Honours, received the Elizabeth II Coronation Medal in 1953, and was appointed to the Order of Merit in the 1958 Queen's Birthday Honours.
In 1960 he was the first recipient of the honorary Australian of the Year award, which was created to reward those Australians who have a consistent record of excellence, who have made outstanding achievements in their fields, and who have contributed in a significant way to the nation. He received a Gold and Silver Star from the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun in 1961. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1969 New Year Honours, and received the Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal in 1977. In 1978 he was made a Knight of the Order of Australia.
He was a fellow or honorary member of 30 international Academies of Sciences. He received 10 honorary D.Sc. degrees from universities including Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford, an honorary M.D. from Hahnemann Medical College (now part of Drexel University), an honorary Doctor of Medical Science from the Medical University of South Carolina and a Doctor of Laws from the University of Melbourne. Including his Nobel, he received 19 medals or awards including the Royal Medal and the Copley Medal from the Royal Society and the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research; he also received 33 international lectureships and 17 lectureships within Australia.
Australia's largest communicable diseases research institute—the Burnet Institute (founded in 1986) —was named in his honour. The Burnet Clinical Research Unit of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute was also named in his honour in 1986. In 1975 his work on immunology was recognised by a 33-cent stamp released by Australia Post. Seven Australian medical scientists were commemorated in the issue of a set of four Australian stamps released in 1995; he appears on the 45-cent stamp with fellow University of Melbourne graduate Jean Macnamara. He also appears on a Dominican stamp that was issued in 1997. The centenary of his birth was celebrated in Australia in 1999; a statue of him was erected in Franklin Street, Traralgon; and several events were held in his honour including the release of a new edition of his biography by Oxford University Press.
Burnet biographer Christopher Sexton suggests that Burnet's legacy is fourfold: the scope and quality of his research; his nationalistic attitude which led him to stay in Australia, leading to the development of science in Australia and inspiring future generations of Australian scientists; his success establishing the reputation of Australian medical research worldwide; and his books, essays and other writings. In spite of his sometimes controversial ideas on science and humanity, Peter Doherty has noted that "Burnet's reputation is secure in his achievements as an experimentalist, a theoretician and a leader of the Australian scientific community."
During the early days of virology, HPAI virus was used as model agent, specially because of the easy of use of chickens as experimental animals . The association of HPAI with neurological problems, lead to the initial comparison of this virus to rabies. Similarly, the high mortality and severity of the symptoms associated with HPAI gave no indication that the virus was related to human influenza viruses. In 1934, Burnet and Ferry  showed that both HPAI and Newcastle disease viruses could be titrated in embryonated chicken eggs, based on their ability to kill the developing embryo. Interestingly, it was not until 1936 that Burnet showed that embryonated chicken eggs could be used for the propagation of influenza viruses . Following the discovery of hemagglutination by influenza viruses , Lush  showed that the HPAI and Newcastle disease viruses were also able to agglutinate red blood cells, and more importantly, that there was no serological relationship between these two avian viruses. The differences between Newcastle disease virus and HPAI were further supported by the discovery that HPAI were indeed influenza viruses  (Table 1).
A new era on the history of AI started in the mid 1900s when less virulent forms of AI viruses were isolated for the first time. The so-called “N” virus was isolated from a dead adult chicken in Germany (A/chicken/Germany/49 (H10N7))  and  but was not recognized as an AI virus until 1960 . Similarly, several viruses were isolated from domestic ducks with respiratory diseases in Manitoba, Canada (A/Duck/Canada/52 (H10N7)) , Czechoslovakia (A/duck/Czechoslovakia/56 (H4N6)) , England (A/duck/England/56 (H11N6))  and Ukranie (A/duck/Ukraine/60 (H11N8)) . Until the mid 1950s, all the HPAI (fowl plague) viruses isolated had been of the H7 subtype. However, in 1959 and 1961 two HPAI viruses of the H5 subtype, producing clinical disease indistinguishable from the traditional fowl plague, were isolated in Scotland (A/chicken/Scotland/59 (H5N1))  and in South Africa (A/tern/South Africa/61 (H5N3)) . This led to the misconception that all H5 and H7 viruses were highly pathogenic. This dogma was later shown to be incorrect when low pathogenic H5 and H7 viruses were isolated from turkeys in Canada (A/turkey/Ontario/66 (H5N9)) , Wisconsin (A/turkey/Wisconsin/68 (H5N9))  and Oregon (A/turkey/Oregon/71 (H7N3)) . In addition, during the 1960s several low pathogenic (LP) AI viruses of different subtypes were isolated from turkeys, chickens, ducks, quail, pheasants and partridges  with respiratory and reproductive disease providing new light into the great variation existing among influenza viruses.
Indications on the potential role of animal influenza on the origin of human pandemics, led the World Health organization to promote studies on the ecology of these viruses in wild animals as early as 1958 . However, it was not until 10 years later that, serologic surveys of wild birds were used to demonstrate the presence of AI virus infection in wild birds in the USA, Australia and Russia B.C. Easterday, D.O. Trainer, B. Tumova and H.G. Pereira, Evidence of infection with influenza viruses in migratory waterfowl, Nature 219 (1968),
List of books by Frank Macfarlane Burnet.
Dr F.M burnet, Notes on warfare from a biological angel 1940.
Burnet FM: Influenza virus "A" infections of cynomolgus monkeys. Aust J Exp Biol Med 19:281-290, 1941
Timeline of immunology.
The scientist and weapons of mass destruction
'Rewind' reveals that Australian Nobel Prize winner, Sir Macfarlane Burnet, was a champion of biological warfare in the 1940s. We open top-secret defence files in which he planned for attacks on the 'teeming hordes' of Asia. And, in a touching twist, we discover why this white supremacist later changed his mind.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Let's turn first to a man who's still seen as one of the very finest minds in our history. His life-saving work on viruses and immunology won him a Nobel Prize in 1960. But there was another very secret and very surprising side to Sir Macfarlane Burnet. Back in the 1940s, when we were afraid of what we called the 'Asian hordes to our north', Macfarlane Burnet took part in government plans to develop weapons of mass destruction - chemical and germ warfare that could be used against our neighbours. It's the story of a brilliant man who took a journey towards the heart of darkness. In January 1947, Australia's leading biological scientist travels down St Kilda Road, Melbourne. His destination is Victoria Barracks, for a top secret meeting of a senior defence committee. He's carrying documents which have the potential to change Australia's destiny. These documents will remain secret for decades, and with good reason. Their mission is a biological and chemical weapons plan for Australia, and the scientist is Frank Macfarlane Burnet.
DR PHILIP DORLING, HISTORIAN: As a professional scientist, he was prepared to give some reasonably cold-blooded advice to the Australian Government about weapons that today would be viewed with repugnance, and indeed back in the 1940s were certainly viewed as morally dubious, and probably considerably worse.
MICHAEL CATHCART: But this very grim and secret chapter of Macfarlane Burnet's life has been wiped from public memory. These days, this Nobel Prize winner is remembered by most Australians as a great humanitarian.
PROFESSOR IAN GUST: I think he was a giant. He was head and shoulders above any other biologist in Australia, he was a virologist of the very highest calibre, he then became an immunologist of the very highest calibre.
CHRISTOPHER SEXTON, BIOGRAPHER - 'BURNET: A LIFE: There was a kind of indefinable aura about the man, and it's not because he was a Nobel laureate, it wasn't because he was this great scientist. There was something very unmistakable about his presence.
MICHAEL CATHCART: This place is full of happy memories for me. It's Ormond College at the University of Melbourne, and I lived here as an undergraduate in the 1970s. And the most famous person in the college at that time was probably Sir Macfarlane Burnet, who was aged well into his 70s at that stage. And I can remember him giving a seminar in this room on the subject of current medical research, and I came away from that evening with the feeling that I'd been in the presence of a man of extraordinary intelligence, of a kind of humanity, a sort of...goodness, really. And I want to understand how that man could have been involved in biological warfare research in the 1940s, and whether it's true that he advocated the use of such weapons. Of course, these were terrifying times. In the Second World War, Australians were facing their grimmest nightmare. We had long imagined that Asia was teeming with potential invaders - all of them looking hungrily at the vast open spaces of Australia. Now that fear had become a
reality. The yellow peril was making its move.
DR PHILIP DORLING: Australia has recently faced the threat of invasion from Japan, the Cold War is developing, the communists are about to take over China, and the mind-set is very much a one of Australia that is isolated and faces a threat from larger, more populous nations in its region.
MICHAEL CATHCART: And this is what really alarmed Burnet as a biologist - the prospect that the populations of Asia were about to explode. Like lots of people, he wondered how a mere 7 million Australians could defend this island continent. In 1946, he wrote -
"There'll be some desperate problems facing Australia if Asiatic peoples are strengthened by adequate nutrition, and by the conquest of infectious disease. Malnutrition and disease in Asia have alone kept coloured populations in check to our north."
MICHAEL CATHCART: This is racism of the most basic kind. He believed that the death of Asians due to hunger and disease was a positive - it kept their population numbers in check. How could he think such things?
DR PHILIP DORLING: Some of his views were reflective of some more conventional wisdom. The difference is then that he then looked at that in terms of what one might do to redress the balance.
MICHAEL CATHCART: But how does Dorling know this? Well, he was researching at the National Archives in Canberra when he came across a reference to a secret defence committee on biological warfare. Its principal adviser was Macfarlane Burnet. But when Philip Dorling attempted to access these top secret documents, the defence department said no. And what's the sensitivity that the department was foreseeing?
DR PHILIP DORLING: Well, the department couldn't initially say what the sensitivity was, because they said that the nature of it was too sensitive to release. Understandably, this pricked my interest.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Philip Dorling appealed against the decision, and finally, 18 months later, he got his chance to discover what was in these top secret defence files.
DR PHILIP DORLING: Sir Macfarlane Burnet and the committee that he was involved in had been contemplating the idea of developing an offensive capability in biological warfare aimed at the agricultural crops of Indonesia and China, and indeed, specifically named Indonesia as a target.
MICHAEL CATHCART: No wonder the defence department was unwilling to release the documents even 60 years later. They include a secret report by Macfarlane Burnet called 'War from a Biological Angle', and it makes chilling reading. "Specifically to the Australian situation, the most effective counter-offensive to threatened invasion by overpopulated Asiatic countries would be directed towards the destruction by biological or chemical means, of tropical food crops."
DR PHILIP DORLING: So he's looking, essentially, at a regional-specific weapon, if you like, that would affect Australia's enemies, but not backfire on us, which has always been one of the difficulties of biological warfare, is that once you let something loose, it may come around and bite you.
MICHAEL CATHCART: So this is the work of a coldly objective scientist. There is no hint of the humanitarian in his thinking, which is why he wanted weapons to target tropical food crops - so that the temperate crops of Australia would be immune. And can we identify why he particularly was drawn into to this?
DR PHILIP DORLING: Sir Macfarlane Burnet first provided advice to the Australian Government about biological warfare during the Second World War, and he was asked to advise on the possible threat from the axis powers to Australia, in terms of biological warfare, and indeed, on the allegations that the Japanese were engaged in biological warfare in China.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Macfarlane Burnet clearly knew that Japan had ravaged China with biological weapons, devastating crops and slaughtering thousands of civilians with anthrax, cholera and bubonic plague.
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: Public enemy number one. Today, as the rabbit menace reaches an all-time high, national leaders, farmers, graziers and local authorities are fighting a vital battle.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Back in Australia, our own crops were under attack. And the invaders were rabbits. But scientists at Australia's leading virus lab, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, had the enemy in their sights. With colleagues at CSIRO, they were developing a potent biological weapon - the deadly myxomatosis virus. Macfarlane Burnet was a key figure at the Institute and would shortly become director and his chief biologist was Frank Fenner. He's a famous microbiologist in his own right. And he's one of the few people alive today who knew Macfarlane Burnet in the 1940s. In fact, the two men were longtime friends.
PROFESSOR FRANK FENNER, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: You'd have to say he was a very shy man. He took quite seriously his social responsibilities.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Like Macfarlane Burnet, Frank Fenner was very aware that their groundbreaking research on myxomatosis had huge public benefit. But what Fenner didn't know was that US defence scientists were adapting their methods for war against another mammal - humans. And now that Frank Fenner knows what the Americans were doing, he's astonished at their ruthlessness.
PROFESSOR FRANK FENNER: If they can kill rabbits like that, we could get something that killed humans like that, it'd be wonderful. (Laughs) That's the sort of attitude you had to have if you were in that game.
MICHAEL CATHCART: So you're actually a pioneer?
PROFESSOR FRANK FENNER: Well, to my surprise. I didn't know that.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Frank Fenner didn't know that his research was being considered in these terms. Among people working in your field after the war, including Macfarlane Burnet, was there an awareness that this kind of research had military applications?
PROFESSOR FRANK FENNER: No. Not at all. And he mentioned it a few times, that influenza, if it could be spread, would be terrible. That 1914-18 kind of influenza.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Finding a cure for the vicious influenza virus that in 1918 killed more people than the Great War, was the focus of Macfarlane Burnet's scientific attention during those postwar years. At the same time, he was engaged in top-secret meetings at Victoria Barracks on germ warfare. And that's the great irony. Macfarlane Burnet was a world leader in virus research. Research that could be used to cure people or to kill them in time of war. And he recognised that deadly potential.
DR PHILIP DORLING: From time to time, in the course of his discussions with government about these issues, he had actually identified influenza as essentially the potentially most potent biological agent.
MICHAEL CATHCART: It's as though until this time, he'd spent all of his professional life looking down a microscope. And down here, it's very simple. For a microbiologist, there are two kinds of populations and they're at war. And when he was called upon to use his expertise to analyse world affairs, he took the little world down the microscope and projected it onto the globe. Would he have seen it as an ethical issue, the development of chemical weapons?
PROFESSOR FRANK FENNER: I think he got to the situation where the...the Australian Government was worried about biological warfare. I could see then that he regarded it as an important social duty to help the defence forces in any way that he could.
MICHAEL CATHCART: But in the mid-'40s, did Ben Chifley's government really believe that it needed to prepare for that kind of attack on Australia?
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR WAYNE REYNOLDS, UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE: Ben Chifley, who's quite determined to pool the scientists, to develop the defence science capability and get Australia involved in the development of scientific weapons, asks you to come in as the leader in the field, as Oliphant is with respect to nuclear weapons, and advise us about the possibility of such weapons. Of course he responds to that.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Wayne Reynolds is an expert on Australia's involvement in developing weapons of mass destruction. And we asked him to examine the documents uncovered by Philip Dorling. It appears that in the 1940s and '50s, Macfarlane Burnet made several visits to the top-secret British biological weapons lab at Porton. Imagine what it must've been like, this cloistered lab scientist taking his place at the table with some of Britain's best.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR WAYNE REYNOLDS: Macfarlane Burnet goes to Porton and comes back and essentially outlines a strategy, an approach, in which the Australians might have a role in the development of biological weapons.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Now, I've come to the archives of the University of Melbourne which has an extraordinary collection of the papers and diaries of Sir Macfarlane Burnet. And I've read a heap of stuff here. And it's very clear to me he went on an extraordinary journey, a mental journey, about his attitude to the human race between 1945 and 1960. I found a talk from 1960 which is incredibly poignant. It's a talk he gave to the Rotary Club in Melbourne that year. And he says this. "I shall probably be called incredibly naive, but I prefer to believe that all men belong to one species. And that every race responds to human situations in basically similar fashion. At least, that faith provides the only hope for a future for civilisation." The man who wrote that in 1960 was incapable even of thinking that forward back in 1945. What does his biographer, Christopher Sexton, think?
CHRISTOPHER SEXTON: Bear in mind, up until the mid-'50s, the late '50s, he really did not venture very far beyond simply doing the standard, um, travel visits. Mainly to England and to America. Once, however, he did start to step outside the laboratory, then his eyes opened. And I think that did cause a shift.
MICHAEL CATHCART: And that's the story I'm finding in Burnet's private papers. When he began to travel, he saw that sheer humanity demanded the sick of India should be cured. In Czechoslovakia and Russia, he encountered people of flesh and blood. The old white supremacist was relenting. He was being moved to a sense of common brotherhood.
SIR GUSTAV NOSSAL: It's a beautiful portrait, don't you think? When you look at that portrait, who do you see? Who's the man we're seeing in that portrait?
SIR GUSTAV NOSSAL: Well, I can see the sternness.
MICHAEL CATHCART: The brilliant biologist Gustav Nossal knew Burnet well and followed him as the director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. I caught up with him at his old workplace. So what does Sir Gus Nossal make of Burnet's involvement in the biological weapons program?
SIR GUSTAV NOSSAL: I literally had no idea of it. It was something that he didn't talk about. It wasn't front of mind in 1957 when I turned up, not at all.
MICHAEL CATHCART: So how does he account for Burnet's anti-Asian ideas?
SIR GUSTAV NOSSAL: Don't forget Mac Burnet, Scottish stock, country origins, Geelong College. Ormond College. It's a very WASPish view. I mean, yes, that's how the majority of people thought back then. So, no, I'm not going to excuse him. But I don't want you to be too tough on him.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Well, the Nobel Prize winner that I encountered when I was a student, was a man who'd been on an epic journey. He'd learnt that, regardless of race, we're all members of the one species. And he was a great scientist. You and I might even owe our lives to him. And whether he was a great ethical thinker, that's a more challenging proposition.
The Australian Department of Defence formed the New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee soon after the end of WW2. Documents in the National Archives, declassified in 1998, revealed the extent to which Australia considered the development of biological weapons in the 1940s and 50s.
Secretary of the Department F.G. Sheddon sought the advice of leading microbiologist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet in December 1946. Burnet was Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, and won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1960. Sheddon asked whether Australia had the capability to develop biological weapons that would work in tropical Asia without spreading to Australia's more temperate population centres.
Burnet wrote a comprehensive memo to the Department of Defence in which he said Australia should develop biological weapons that would work in tropical Asia without spreading to Australia's more temperate population centres.
"Specifically to the Australian situation, the most effective counter-offensive to threatened invasion by overpopulated Asiatic countries would be directed towards the destruction by biological or chemical means of tropical food crops and the dissemination of infectious disease capable of spreading in tropical but not under Australian conditions."
In a meeting with Sheddon in January 1947, Burnet argued that Australia's temperate climate could give it a significant military advantage.
"The main contribution of local research so far as Australia is concerned might be to study intensively the possibilities of biological warfare in the tropics against troops and civil populations at a relatively low level of hygiene and with correspondingly high resistance to the common infectious diseases."
Burnet was invited to join the chemical and biological warfare subcommittee of the New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee in September 1947. The committee prepared a report, of which Burnet was the principal author, entitled Note on War from a Biological Angle suggesting that biological warfare could be a powerful weapon to help defend a sparsely populated Australia. The report urged the government to encourage Australian universities to research areas of biological science of relevance to biological weapons.
"The main strategic use of biological warfare may well be to administer the coup de grace to a virtually defeated enemy and compel surrender in the same way that the atomic bomb served in 1945. Its use has the tremendous advantage of not destroying the enemy's industrial potential which can then be taken over intact. Overt biological warfare might be used to enforce surrender by psychological rather than direct destructive measures." (Note on War from a Biological Angle)
The minute of a meeting in February 1948 note that [b]Burnet "was of the opinion that if Australia undertakes work in this field it should be on the tropical offensive side rather than the defensive.
"Introduction of yellow fever into a country with appropriate mosquito vectors might build up into a disabling epidemic before control measures were established."
The subcommittee recommended that "the possibilities of an attack on the food supplies of S-E Asia and Indonesia using B.W. agents should be considered by a small study group".
It 1951 it recommended that "a panel reporting to the chemical and biological warfare subcommittee should be authorised to report on the offensive potentiality of biological agents likely to be effective against the local food supplies of South-East Asia and Indonesia".
The activities of the chemical and biological warfare subcommittee were scaled back soon after, as Prime Minister Robert Menzies was more interested in trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
Australia signed the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 and chairs the Australia Group.
10 January 2001.
A virus that kills every one of its victims, by wiping out part of their immune system, has been accidentally created by an Australian research team. The virus, a modified mousepox, does not affect humans, but it is closely related to smallpox, raising fears that the technology could be used in biowarfare.
The discovery highlights a growing problem. How do you stop terrorists taking legitimate research and adapting it for their own nefarious purposes?
The Australian researchers had no intention of producing a killer virus. They were merely trying to make a mouse contraceptive vaccine for pest control. "But it's a good way to show how to alter smallpox to make it more virulent," says Ken Alibek, former second-in-command of the civilian branch of the Soviet germ-warfare programme.
Ron Jackson of CSIRO's wildlife division and Ian Ramshaw at the Australian National University, both in Canberra, inserted into a mousepox virus a gene that creates large amounts of interleukin 4. IL-4 is a molecule that occurs naturally in the body. As part of a study aimed at creating a contraceptive vaccine, they were trying to stimulate antibodies against mouse eggs, which would make the animals infertile. The mousepox virus was merely a vehicle for transporting the egg proteins into mice to trigger an antibody response. The researchers added the gene for IL-4 to boost antibody production. The surprise was that it totally suppressed the "cell-mediated response"--the arm of the immune system that combats viral infection.
Mousepox normally causes only mild symptoms in the type of mice used in the study, but with the IL-4 gene added it wiped out all the animals in nine days. "It would be safe to assume that if some idiot did put human IL-4 into human smallpox they'd increase the lethality quite dramatically," says Jackson. "Seeing the consequences of what happened in the mice, I wouldn't be the one who'd want to do the experiment."
To make matters worse, the engineered virus also appears unnaturally resistant to attempts to vaccinate the mice. A vaccine that would normally protect mouse strains that are susceptible to the virus only worked in half the mice exposed to the killer version. "It's surprising how very, very bad the virus is," says Ann Hill, a vaccine researcher from Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. If bioterrorists created a human version of the virus, vaccination programmes would be of limited use.
Alibek, who now works on developing novel treatments for anthrax for the defence contractor Hadron in Virginia, says this highlights the drawback of working on vaccines against bioweapons rather than treatments. "I'd say any vaccine could be overcome by one or another genetically engineered virus or bacterium," he says.
Is it possible that research into new vaccines against cancer and other diseases could inadvertently create lethal human viruses? Many of the most promising modern vaccines depend on viruses to transport genes into the body, and contain genes that directly alter the immune response. But researchers have not been too concerned because the evidence until now suggested that changes in the genetic make-up of viruses invariably makes them less virulent, not more. One way to reduce the risk, says Gary Nabel of the National Institutes of Health, is to use only viruses that cannot replicate. "There are some replication-competent [viral vaccines] around, but there is increasing concern about their use," he says.
Defence experts are also worried about preserving the freedom to publish medical findings while trying to stop the information falling into the wrong hands. According to D. A. Henderson, a former US presidential adviser, and director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, what are effectively blueprints for making microorganisms more harmful regularly appear in unclassified journals. "I can't for the life of me figure out how we are going to deal with this," he says.
The Australian researchers consulted their country's Department of Defence before submitting the work for publication, and only decided to go ahead after considerable thought. A report will appear in a February issue of the Journal of Virology. "We wanted to warn the general population that this potentially dangerous technology is available," says Jackson. "We wanted to make it clear to the scientific community that they should be careful, that it is not too difficult to create severe organisms."
April 9, 2009
Rath loves to stir up anti-american sentiment, I think its his hobby. Usually based on total ignorance of this country I might add.
When we know we have 10 million illegal people how have snuck into this country, we also know they have brought in diseases along with them. The Flu that came in via Mexico resulted in what? My Daughter, a teacher in Cochella Valley area has been exposed to TB that came in from Mexico. Small Pox coming in from 3rd world countries, along with other diseases, do come in via illegal human trafficing. We also have diseases that come in via legal means, and all the food handling people in Las Vegas are required to have Hepatitis vacinations, to work in any restraunts. Many deseases come in via Asian traverlers to many of our resort areas.
If we got a stockpile of Small pox vacines, someone knows the potential for an outbreak via so much international travel, be it legal or illegal.
Estimated Origin: 1000 BCE, North Africa (Egypt area, 30 centuries ago)
Cause: Variola, Orthopoxvirus family
Contagion paths: Contact, aerosol
Incubation period: 12-14 days
Symptoms: Flu-like at first, then rath--I mean, rash--developing into acne-like lesions
Mortality: About 30% (natural strains only)
Last natural fatality: 1977, Cape Horn (what a year!)
Last accidental fatality: 1978, UK (foolish Brits...)
Precautions: Isolate infected persons, avoid contact, decontaminate after exposure
Decontamination: Chemical, heat, incineration
Treatment: None, vaccinate up to 4 days post-exposure
Vaccine: Yes (obviously, see above)
Vaccine type: Reconstituted freeze-dried Vaccinia orthopoxvirus
Vaccine duration: Approximately 10 years, additional 10 year partial protection
Except for the quip about rath, the above information was extracted from the World Health Organization's Web page on Smallpox.
If you can find Cowpox, which is caused by Vaccinia, you can make Smallpox vaccine. Or you can do like we did, and order a batch from Denmark. 😛
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