The Johns Hopkins University, Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies


Threat of Bioterrorism -  from year 2000

Recent events indicate that neither technical factors, such as arms control treaties, nor the moral repugnance long associated with the use of biological weapons will deter the use of these agents as weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq acknowledges having mounted an ambitious and sophisticated bioweapons program. Its physical assets and complement of scientific personnel remain intact.

The Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo made at least nine attempts to aerosolize anthrax and botulism throughout central Tokyo and sought to obtain Ebola virus for use as a bioweapon.

Russian defectors have documented the existence of an extensive Soviet bioweapons research, development and production program. Its existence has been confirmed by President Yeltsin. The same conditions that fuel concerns about "loose nukes" from former Soviet facilities making their way onto the black market also beset major bioweapons plants. Such conditions include neglected security systems, unpaid and unemployed technical personnel with access to and knowledge of weapons of mass destruction.


A New Form Of Terrorism

An attack caused by biological weapons would be different from conventional military strikes or even attacks caused by other weapons of mass destruction. An attack with biological weapons could initiate an epidemic that sickens or kills large numbers of U.S. citizens.

Few physicians have ever seen a case of smallpox or anthrax or plague, for example, and so diagnosis of the epidemic is certain to be delayed. The laboratory capabilities for diagnosis and measuring the antibiotic sensitivity of potential organisms are likewise limited, thus further delaying diagnosis and the implementation of control measures.

An attack would not be obvious for days to weeks depending on the incubation period of the disease. By then, modern transportation would have dispersed widely the population of victims. For contagious agents such as smallpox and plague, this implies ever-widening spread of disease.

Little planning has been undertaken either separately or collectively by the many public and private agencies that must play a role in dealing with an attack.

Stockpiles of vaccines and antibiotics to counter epidemics caused by the principal agents are, as yet, inadequate or non-existent.


The Center's Approach - (The Johns Hopkins University, Center for Civilian Biodefense)

Raise Consciousness

Increase national and international awareness of the medical and public health threats posed by biological weapons, thereby augmenting the potential legal, political and moral prohibitions against their use.

Build a Knowledge Base

Develop a broader appreciation of the scope of the threat posed by the major biological agents and possible medical and public health responses to them through analysis of expected clinical manifestations, available treatment strategies, epidemiology, and potential methods of prophylaxis. Disseminate this knowledge throughout the medical and public health communities.

Catalyze Development of Effective and Practical Systems to Respond to Epidemics

Foster the planning and preparation for response to possible bioterrorist attacks, and by so doing, lessen their potential effectiveness and attractiveness as instruments of terror. Engage the medical and public health communities in comprehensive planning for the epidemiological characterization of the epidemic, for the care and treatment of casualties, for communication of information to the public and for the pursuit of unmet research and preparedness needs.


Program Staff

Tara O'Toole, MD, MPH

Thomas V. Inglesby, MD
Deputy Director

Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD
Senior Fellow

Elin Gursky, ScD
Senior Fellow

Gigi Kwik, PhD

Luciana Borio, MD

Brad Smith, PhD

Michael Mair
Senior Research Assistant

Nicola Critchlow
Research Assistant

Organizational Staff

Bruce Campbell
Senior Administrator

Theodore Priftis
User Support Specialist II

Molly D'Esopo
Production Coordinator

Timothy D. Holmes
Web Development Specialist

Andrea Lapp
Special Events Coordinator

Darcell Vinson

Tamika Lee
Administrative Assistant

Founding Directors

D. A. Henderson, MD, MPH

John G. Bartlett, MD


See Reports by D. A. Henderson, MD, MPH --- Back to Smallpox Virus Destruction Page


Threat of Bioterrorism

Smallpox Virus Destruction

Meeting of the WHO Variola Research Committee

The Research Agenda Utilizing Variola Virus:
A Public Health Perspective

Biodefense Quarterly, June 1999

Risk of a Deliberate Release of Smallpox Virus;
Its Impact on Virus Destruction

Deliberations Regarding the Destruction of Smallpox Virus: A Historical Review, 1980-1998

Confronting Biological Weapons: a special section in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Smallpox as a Biological Weapon

Recent Events and Observations Pertaining to Smallpox Virus Destruction in 2002

Bioterrorism and the People: How to Vaccinate a City against Panic