Bioweapons are biological agents – such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi – used offensively
against enemy combatants or civilian populations. These weapons are invisible, uncontrollable, and (if you’re not vaccinated or don’t have immediate treatment) unstoppable.
In today’s article of World Famous Hub, we’re talking about some of the world’s most dangerous bioweapons – we’re going to tell you what they are, how they work, and what’ll happen if they’re ever used on you. Grab your gas mask and hazmat suit, we’re jumping in.
1- Botulinum Toxin Also known informally as “Botox”
Botulinum Toxin is an extremely dangerous neurotoxic protein derived from the bacterium Clostridium
botulinum in low-oxygen conditions. Botulinum has been used as a medical treatment for conditions such as “spasticiy” in the past, and is used to this day as a cosmetic treatment for wrinkles.
However, if used in combat, Botulinum Toxin can be a horrifically potent biological weapon
– seen by some as one of the most deadly substances known to man.
What happens if Botulinum Toxin is weaponized and used against you?
Being a neurotoxin, Botulinum Toxin blocks nerve signals from the brain, causing severe
respiratory and muscle paralysis. Around twelve hours after contracting botulism, you’re likely to experience fatigue, dizziness, vertigo, and blurred vision.
Then, you’ll have difficulty swallowing, and breathing. After that comes the severe vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Soon enough, you’ll start to experience physical weakness, severe pain, and paralysis
across the body.
It’s a slow and painful death, if not diagnosed and treated early. Combatants could poison food sources with Botulinum Toxin, or utilise it in its airborne form, wherein the time between contraction and displaying symptoms can take days. Meaning, you could be doomed before you even know it.
Aflatoxins are a type of deadly toxin derived from naturally-occurring fungi across the globe. Even outside of their potential application as a bioweapon, aflatoxins already create huge problems for people and livestock everywhere – destroying up to 25% of the world’s crop supply every year.
Aflatoxins are commonly present in fermenting nuts and grains, and exposure to humans occurs
most commonly through this vector. If enemy combatants got their hands on a significant supply of aflatoxin, any attacks using it could cause horrific damage to their opponents.
In addition to killing or contaminating a nation’s crops, low-level exposure to aflatoxins – such as spergillus, Parasiticus, and Flavus – over a period of time can increase the likelihood of people developing cancer in all their major organ systems.
Longitudinal exposure can also result in birth defects and severely weakened immune systems. However, acute poisoning – known as aflatoxicosis – on the short term can lead to a painful death by liver failure.
Its variance in symptoms also makes it difficult to detect before it’s too late. Even low-level aflatoxin exposure after a long period of time can damage a population for years or even decades to come.
Bunya viruses are a member of the Bunya viridae viral family, transmitted largely by rodents like rats and small arthropods like mosquitoes and flies, allowing them to thrive in hot and unhygienic conditions like dense, urban areas.
Bunya virus has the ability to decimate both human populations and livestock. If used by a combatant, Bunya virus could attack a population’s food supply while also inducing dangerous sickness in its citizens.
Most commonly, infection with Bunya virus leads to the victim experiencing a horrifying condition
known as severe viral haemorrhagic fever.
One of the most common varieties of Bunyavirus is the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (Or
CCHF). It’s found largely in Eastern Europe, but also occurs across the globe in places like
Central Asia and the Congo. The symptoms of the disease at first appear mild – such as headaches, stomach ache, fever, joint pain, and vomiting.
However, they become more disturbing over time. Red eyes, severe bruising, nosebleeds, and increasingly violent haemorrhaging. If not properly treated, Bunyaviruses like the Crimean-Congo Hemorrahgic Fever can have as high as a 50% mortality rate. Your chances of survival are literally like flipping a coin.
Marburg Virus Marburg Virus, also known as Marburg Virus Disease and Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, is one of the two members of the Filovirus family– the other being the infamous Ebola Virus.
Much like the Bunyaviruses, Marburg Virus can cause the onset of severe hemorrhagic fever. While it can and has infected human victims, Marburg Virus is largely considered an animal-borne– or Zoonotic – disease.
Its most common vectors are rodents and cave bats, which are often reservoirs for this nasty virus.
Symptomatically, it’s extremely similar to the Bunyaviruses. Initially causing simple and seemingly-innocent symptoms like headaches and fevers.
A few days after contraction, the victim is likely to experience nausea, abdominal pains, cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, over the course of about a week, the symptoms worsen and become extremely debilitating. The severe hemorrhagic fever finally sets in, followed by bruising and bleeding from
the orifices. This blood, by the way, is infectious and can further spread the virus. If a combatant got their hands on these viral samples, it’d be bad news for anyone opposing them.
Thankfully for humans in the audience, Rinderpest isn’t an infection you can catch. However, in 2018, studies showed that the average American consumes around 220 pounds/100 kilograms of red meat and poultry every year. The grand majority of this meat is domestic beef. That’s why Rinderpest has the potential to be such an effective bioweapon, because it’s an extremely contagious and deadly disease that attacks cattle.
Considering how vital beef production is to the economy and food supply of the United States, an attack of the thought-to-be-extinct Rinderpest would be devastating. Cattle infected with the Rinderpest virus suffer from a fever, followed by severe gastrointestinal discomfort that manifests in ulcers and diarrhea.
The cow will also release an infectious discharge from its nose and mouth that risks infecting other nearby cattle by contaminating communal water sources. The virus also causes serious damage to the upper digestive and respiratory tract, followed by dehydration, and then death. The Rinderpest virus is a perfect example of the variety of potential bio weapons. A direct offense against human targets isn’t the only way to cause major infrastructural damage to an enemy.
Yersinia Pestis (Plague) Yersinia Pestis is a bacterium that causes perhaps the most terrifying and iconic infectious disease of all time: The Plague. Spread largely through the Oriental Rat Flea, and other small arthropods, the Yersinia Pestis is a highly infectious disease.
The two different varieties of plague are bubonic (known for killing most of Europe in the fourteenth century) and pneumonic. The incubation period for this disease is a single day to a whole week, after which,
you begin to experience some truly nightmarish symptoms.
In the bubonic plague, the lymph nodes in the armpit inflame and inflate, creating large, painful “buboes” that later fill with pus and develop agonizing open sores. In even more severe cases, the disease spreads to the lungs, causing the pneumonic plague. This version of the plague is significantly more infectious than the bubonic plague, and typically can only be successfully treated if diagnosed within the twenty-four-hour incubation period.
Otherwise, a painful death is pretty much assured. Combatants capable of infecting people with a hardy strain of Yersinia Pestis would truly be a force to be reckoned with.
5- Ebola Virus The other member of the Filovirus family
Zaire Ebolavirus – known colloquially as Ebola – is an incredibly dangerous and infectious
virus from Sub-Saharan Africa. Originating in animals such as apes and small primates, Ebola spreads from human to human through infected bodily fluids like blood, saliva, and feces.
The virus has no cure, and can only be treated symptomatically until it leaves the system. This is a grueling process, and if the medical professionals treating you aren’t properly protected, their risk of infection is extremely high.
Traces of the virus can also linger on objects for significantly longer than many other viruses, The symptoms of this virus are just as intimidating as its biological resilience. These symptoms are divided into “dry” and “wet” symptoms, progressing from one to the other as the disease worsens. Primary dry symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, and a high fever. Dangerously, at this stage, it’s often confused with influenza.
The wet symptoms are considerably more dangerous, and harder to treat – diarrhea, vomiting, and severe hemorrhaging. In some cases, it’s been known to have as high as a 90% mortality rate.
Meaning, if you contract Ebola, the odds are extremely against you.
If combatants utilized Ebola in a densely-populated area, the results would likely be devastating.
6- Francisella tularensis (Tularemia)
Francisella tularensis is a durable aerobic bacterium that causes the disease Tularemia. Typically, like the plague, the vector for this disease’s transmission is a small arthropod
– such as a mosquito or flea – drinking the blood of an infected animal and then passing it on to a human victim.
However, Pneumonic Tularemia – the lung-borne variant of the disease – is a viable bioweapon because it can be transmitted through the air and is extremely infectious. Aerosol-transmitted Tularemia is considered one of the greatest biowarfare threats of the modern world.
The symptoms of Tularemia also vary massively depending on the particular bacterial strain the victim has been infected with – with symptoms often being dependent on the means of transmission. For example, with ulceroglandular tularemia, a large ulcer will develop at the site of infection and the lymph nodes will become infected and swollen.
Oropharyngeal tularemia occurs when the infection happens after consuming infected food or drink,
and results in swelling and ulcers in the throat. But, the aforementioned Pneumonic strain results in severe respiratory issues, eventually resulting in death.
Hopefully nobody gets their hands on a canister of aerosol Pneumonic tularemia any time soon.
7- Variola Major (Smallpox)
Now, we’re getting into the bio weapon big leagues.
According to the Center for Health Security, Variola Major – the virus behind Smallpox – is an almost perfect bioweapon. It gives the following terrifying reasons: The virus can spread between people. There is no official treatment for Smallpox.
The fatality rate for those infected is extremely high. Countries across the world no longer vaccinate for Variola Major, because it’s thought to be practically extinct in the developed world. The virus is stable in aerosol form, meaning it’s easy to distribute. And the infectious dose is small, even by viral standards.
This cocktail of traits makes Variola Major an ideal viral bio weapon. The actual symptomatic experience of Smallpox is as terrifying as its capacity for biowarfare.
The early stages involve high fever, muscle aches, and vomiting. This sickness often leaves the victim bedridden. During the early stages of the rash that follows, the victim is at their most infectious. Red bumps appear in the mouth, and rashes start breaking out across the skin. These rashes become larger, pustular, and highly infectious scabs that remain over the next four weeks, if the victim has survived.
Sadly, most victims don’t make it that far.
8- Bacillus Anthracis (Anthrax)
Saving the most infamous biological weapon for last, the Bacillus Anthracis bacterium, and its resulting disease: Anthrax. Anthrax is a disease more synonymous with biological warfare than being a naturally
occurring result of bacteria.
That’s because, outside of the context of biological warfare, anthrax is an extremely rare disease.
And yet, it’s consistently been a part of several major countries’ biological warfare programs. Part of the appeal of Anthrax is how incredibly hardy its spores are – capable of surviving decades in almost any environment with no water or nutrients.
Bacillus Anthracis is about as resilient as a bio weapon can get, but that’s not where its merits as a bio weapon end.
According to the Center for Health Security, there are numerous factors that make Anthrax one of the most desirable tools of biowarfare.
It’s possible to mass-produce in its highly infectious aerosol form, inhalational anthrax has an overwhelmingly high mortality rate, and strains of the disease have been antibiotic-resistant in the past.
If you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of an inhalation anthrax attack, you’re likely to experience an intense fever, swelling of the throat and abdomen, nausea, stomach pain, fainting, and more.
While there are treatments for anthrax, you better hope you can get to a hospital quickly and get a proper diagnosis, or you probably won’t live to tell the tale.
Which of these do you think is the scariest bioweapon?
Let us know in the comments below.