Aum Shinrikyo’s leader Shoko Asahara
By Scientist/Micro-Surgeon Johan Van Dongen
The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, infamous for setting off sarin gas in a Tokyo subway in 1995, also targeted Ebola as a potential biological weapon. In 1992, they sent a medical group of 40 people ostensibly to provide aid, during an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, their real intention was to collect some Ebola virus, as Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, noted in her 2000 report Ataxia.
Even if Aum Shinrikyo had managed to gather samples of the Ebola virus, it would have been extremely difficult to kill large numbers of people in countries with a strong health infrastructure such as Japan. Once the virus had been identified and patients isolated, the pathogen would have been unlikely to spread widely. Still, any terrorist attempting to stoke fears rather than accrue a high body count could have some modicum of success with Ebola. “When talking about bioterror, it’s more about the terror than it is the bio,” said Fauci.
Doctor Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (one of the US National Institutes of Health) stated in an interview that the virus could potentially be used for “small-scale” Ebola attacks, in about three different ways, although each approach would run up against substantial logistical, financial and biological barriers. First, Ebola could be weaponized by taking large quantities of it and inserting them into a small “bomblet” that, once detonated, would spray the virus perhaps 30 feet potentially infecting people as it landed on their faces, on cuts or on hands that they might then touch their eyes with.
Doctor Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (one of the US National Institutes of Health)
“That would be like a hundred people simultaneously touching an Ebola-infected person,” says Fauci. Ebola would not need to be altered in any way to make such a plot work. The virus is already so capable of spreading from person to person via contact with bodily fluids that in its natural state it could do some serious damage.
“Ebola is a very lethal pathogenic virus,” says virologist Robert Garry of Tulane University. “It’s basically weaponizing itself.”
The second, and perhaps easiest, small-scale bioterrorism option would be to recruit individuals for Ebola suicide missions. Such a plan would hinge on injecting Ebola virus into a limited number of people, who would then need to leave west Africa (or wherever the outbreak may be) before becoming symptomatic. Then those individuals would have to get into a public space and projectile vomit or bleed onto others to infect them. Obviously, the plot would need to overcome substantial technical challenges including the extreme weakness that arises from Ebola. If it did succeed, this mode of transmission would not kill thousands of people, but it would set off significant fears.
The third bio-terrorism method appears to be the most unlikely: genetically modifying the virus to enable it to spread more readily, perhaps through the air. As Scientific American reported on September 16, transforming the Ebola virus from a pathogen that primarily affects the circulatory system to one well suited for the respiratory system, would be a major research undertaking. While theoretically the microbe could be manipulated to act in that way, it would be a demanding choice for nefarious actors looking to stockpile harmful materials.
Johan van Dongen
But there’s another delivery mechanism that’s more up a suicide bomber’s alley. They get infected and carry the disease incubating in them but still asymptomatic to their target country. As soon as the symptoms just begin manifesting, the person goes to a highly public area and blows themselves up, spraying contaminated and aerosolized body components all over the surrounding populace, as well as killing or injuring others just from the blast.
That can be done during the cold and flu season when everyone is coughing and sneezing already and you have a prime secondary and tertiary infection path already going in your favor, as well as masking the early Ebola symptoms.
If we consider Ebola as a weapon of terror, then yes; it’s not likely. How about considering Ebola as a means to combat terrorism? After all, Ebola has all the spread characteristics which can be used to eliminate or weaken hostile or terrorist cells.
First, most terrorist cells now are of Muslim origin and maintain religious and cultural practices which include touching, kissing and washing of their dead. Since these cells by their nature are communal, there is a lot of targeted interaction between members of a cell, even when they are sick.
A simple prisoner exchange could be the link to introducing the virus into these extremist groups/cells. A few infected prisoners injected and left to harbor the virus for a few days right before release is an easy way to get the virus in these cells. New prisoners are usually the center of attention for a few days and constantly greeted with hugs, kisses, and other affectionate contact gestures. Spread.
When said prisoner gets ill; until there are the later signs of hemorrhaging, the virus can easily spread to internal and general caretakers, which I can assume will be a few, and from them to others. Multiplied spread.
Further spread will increase when the body is being prepared for burial (washing, kissing). Spread cycle.
Until the signs are noted by members of terrorist groups, the virus can easily spread rapidly and fast; engulfing a network in a matter of weeks. Even though the spread from one prisoner might not be that much, the impact will be major if considered through a group of released prisoners (as usual).
Early containment could be unlikely, due to the general opposition of western doctrines in these cycles. The forcing of extremist groups to change their practices could mean undermining their religious beliefs and accepting a “western” way, which may not be easily accepted.
In the event where the virus is detected early among members, the effects of panic and fear among a typically close-knit operation can still be deleterious, to the point of slowing or shutting down operations due to reduced interaction, and uncertainty among members.
Biowarfare has been going on for a very long time. In the dark ages, plague victims would be thrown into cities by catapult to break sieges. Smallpox infected blankets were given to Indians by British soldiers in the French and Indian Wars. China still has outbreaks from bio-weapons the Japanese used against them in WWII.
It wouldn’t take a Manhattan Project type effort to develop a bio-weapon and Ebola is so nasty to start with, it doesn’t need much in the way of weaponization. If someone is playing games, field testing this bug and getting their act together for a major attack somewhere in the world, it’s time to build a bunker.
Multiple viral agents have been classified by the CDC as potential weapons of mass destruction or agents for biologic terrorism. Agents such as smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fever viruses, agents of viral encephalitis, and others are of concern because they are highly infectious and relatively easy to produce. Although dispersion might be difficult, the risk is magnified by the fact that large populations are susceptible to these agents and only limited treatment and vaccination strategies exist. Although the risk of large-scale bioterrorism using viral agents is small, public health programs and health care providers must be prepared for this potentially devastating impact on public health.
The filoviruses, Marburg and Ebola, are classified as Category A bio-warfare agents by the Centers for Disease Control. Most known human infections with these viruses have been fatal, and no vaccines or effective therapies are currently available. Filoviruses are highly infectious by the airborne route in the laboratory, but investigations of African outbreaks have shown that person-to-person spread requires direct contact with the virus-containing material. To show you that Ebola can be spread by air and other directions we will publish three scientific Abstracts published in well known scientific institutions.
Lethal experimental infections of rhesus monkeys by aerosolized Ebola virus
Johnson E1, Jaax N, White J, Jahrling P, Int J Exp Pathol. 1995 Aug;76(4):227-36.
The potential of atherogenic infection by Ebola virus was established by using a head-only exposure aerosol system. Virus-containing droplets of 0.8-1.2 microns were generated and administered into the respiratory tract of rhesus monkeys via inhalation. Inhalation of viral doses as low as 400 plaque-forming units of virus caused a rapidly fatal disease in 4-5 days.
The illness was clinically identical to that reported for parenteral virus inoculation, except for the occurrence of subcutaneous and venipuncture site bleeding and serosanguineous nasal discharge. Immunocytochemistry revealed cell-associated Ebola virus antigens present in airway epithelium, alveolar pneumocytes, and macrophages in the lung and pulmonary lymph nodes; extracellular antigen was present on mucosal surfaces of the nose, oropharynx, and airways.
Aggregates of the characteristic filamentous virus were present of type I pneumocytes, macrophages, and air spaces of the lung by electron microscopy. Demonstration of fatal aerosol transmission of this virus in monkeys reinforces the importance of taking appropriate precautions to prevent its potential aerosol transmission to humans.
Transmission of Ebola virus (Zaire strain) to uninfected control monkeys in a biocontainment laboratory
Jaax N1, Jahrling P, Geisbert T, Geisbert J, Teele K, McKee K, Nagley D, Johnson E, Jaax G, Peters C. Lancet. 1995 Dec 23-30;346(8991-8992):1669-71.
Secondary transmission of Ebola virus infection in humans is known to be caused by direct contact with infected patients or body fluids. We report transmission of Ebola virus (Zaire strain) to two of three control rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that did not have direct contact with experimentally inoculated monkeys held in the same room.
The two control monkeys died from Ebola virus infections at 10 and 11 days after the last experimentally inoculated monkey had died. The most likely route of infection of the control monkeys was aerosol, oral or conjunctival exposure to virus-laden droplets secreted or excreted from the experimentally inoculated monkeys. These observations suggest approaches to the study of routes of transmission to and among humans.
Lethal experimental infection of rhesus monkeys with Ebola-Zaire (Mayinga) virus by the oral and conjunctival route of exposure.
Davis K.J, Geisbert TJ, Vogel P, Jaax GP, Topper M,J ahrling PB. Lancet 1996 Feb; 120 (2): 140-55.
The source of infection or mode of transmission of Ebola virus to human index cases of Ebola fever has not been established. Field observations in outbreaks of Ebola fever indicate that secondary transmission of Ebola virus is linked to improper needle hygiene, direct contact with infected tissue or fluid samples, and close contact with infected patients.
While it is presumed that the virus infects through either break in the skin or contact with mucous membranes, the only two routes of exposure that have been experimentally validated are parental inoculation and aerosol inhalation. Epidemiologist evidence suggests that aerosol exposure is not an important means of virus transmission in natural outbreaks of human Ebola fever; this study was designed to verify that Ebola virus could be effectively transmitted by oral or conjunctival exposure in nonhuman primates.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Adult rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were exposed to Ebola-Zaire (Mayinga) virus orally (N=4), conjunctival (N=4), or by intramuscular inoculation (N=1, virus-positive control).
Four of seven monkeys exposed by the conjunctival route, three of four monkeys exposed by the oral route, and the intramuscularly inoculated positive control monkey were successfully infected with Ebola-Zaire (Mayinga). Seven monkeys died of Ebola fever between days 7 and 8 post-exposure, but one of the monkeys given aggressive supportive therapy and a platelet transfusion; lived until day 12 post-exposure.
Belgian scientist and discoverer of Ebola, Peter Piot, knew everything about the virus but wouldn’t say publicly was a medical crime against Africa, because his country was involved.
Findings from the experimental study confirm that Ebola virus can be effectively transmitted via the oral or conjunctival route of exposure in nonhuman primates and absolutely can be used as a bio-warfare weapon.