Biological weapons in North Korea: Report outlines what’s known and unknown

North Korea’s military arsenal is really a hot subject today–nuclear and traditional. What is famous concerning the biological weapons (BW) program?

Researchers with Belfer Center for Science and Worldwide Matters in the Harvard Kennedy School partnered with intelligence firm AMPLYFI to look at these topics including policies and proposals for future years.

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The present status and the way forward for North Korea’s BW program remain unclear however, government statements, defector testimonies, and circumstantial evidence like the smallpox vaccination of North Korean soldiers that a minimum of previously, North Korea has held a desire for developing biological weapons.

North Korea is assumed to possess several pathogens in possession to include Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax), Clostridium botulinum (Botox), Vibrio cholerae (Cholera), Bunyaviridae hantavirus (Korean Hemorrhagic Fever), Yersinia pestis (Plague), Variola (Smallpox), Salmonella typhi (Typhoid Fever), Coquillettidia fuscopennata (Yellow Fever), Shigella (Dysentery), Brucella (Brucellosis), Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), Rickettsia prowazekii (Typhus Fever), and T-2 mycotoxin (Alimentary Toxic Aleukia), the report notes.

The ROK Secretary of state for National Defense assessed that North Korea might even have abilities to weaponize them.

LISTEN: North Korea’s Bioweapon Program: Exactly what do we really know?

What’s unknown is the extent that North Korea can weaponize biological agents. The newest statement produced by the South Korean Defense Ministry is the fact that “North Korea has 13 kinds of BW agents so it can weaponize within 10 days, and anthrax and smallpox would be the likely agents it might deploy.”

It is a puzzle whether North Korea has got the capacity to weaponize all 13 kinds of agents, and whether North Korea has the ability to create a mass stockpile of stabilized biological agents.

The report also discusses the way of delivery, procurement issues and also the credibility from the sources:

Mapping out an entire picture of North Korea’s BW capacity is restricted because of difficulties in knowing the credibility of sources. In addition, views and opinions could be subconsciously biased to sensationalize tales to be able to raise awareness. Since government assessments on North Korea’s BW program rarely disclose sources or include supporting analysis, the credibility of free details are hard to verify and also the analysis hard to replicate. Defector testimonies should be thought about carefully. A lot of the data on North Korea’s BW and it is testing on human subjects arises from defectors. This source is efficacious for the reason that it offers clues for areas that require further analysis, but it ought to be noted that some defectors also provide motives to embellish or fabricate details because of money in order to demonize its northern border Korean regime.

Browse the full report HERE

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Bioterrorism: US House of Representatives pass budget bill which includes funding for that NBACC

The United States House of Representatives lately passed a budget bill lately which includes full funding for that Fort Detrick, MD laboratory, the nation’s Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC).

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The balance included a bipartisan amendment created by Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) to completely fund the NBACC. The amendment was co-backed by Republican Dan Donovan (NY-11).

Your budget bill would restore the facility’s full $60 million budget, stated NBACC Communications Director John Gaudet. It might also aid the laboratory go back to a complete staffing capacity of 180 people.

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“NBACC and labs enjoy it are crucial to the homeland security and fighting against bioterrorism. Whenever we saw that President Trump’s budget zeroed out funding with this facility, we stated we would fight it all the way, and that’s what we’re doing,” stated Congressman Delaney.

LISTEN: North Korea’s Bioweapon Program: Exactly what do we really know?

Found at Fort Detrick, the nation’s Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center supports readiness planning, intelligence assessments and bio-forensic analysis and it is utilized by multiple agencies. The ability frequently assists the FBI in investigating bioterrorism.

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Tularemia: Molecular map shows how you can disable potential bioweapon

During The Second World War, the Soviet Red Army was made to move their biological warfare operations from the road to evolving Nazi troops. One of the harmful cargo were vials of Francisella tularensis, the organism that triggers tularemia and among the world’s most infectious pathogens.

Tularemia is caused by the bacterium, Francisella tularensis. Symptoms vary depending on how the person was exposed to the disease, and as is shown here, can include skin ulcers/CDCTularemia is because the bacteria, Francisella tularensis. Signs and symptoms vary for the way the individual was uncovered towards the disease, so that as is proven here, may include skin ulcers/CDC

Years later, a Soviet defector claimed that his country had unleashed their stores of F. tularensis on German soldiers, weakening them shortly prior to the pivotal Fight of Stalingrad. Others believe the outbreak around the German-Soviet front was much more likely spread by rats, not Russians. Yet nobody has disputed the bacteria’s ability to cause harm.

The Centers of Disease Control ranks tularemia among the six most concerning bioterrorism agents, alongside anthrax, botox, plague, smallpox and viral hemorrhagic fever. And Russian stockpiles from it likely remain.

American scientists studying F. tularensis recently mapped the complex molecular circuitry that allows the bacteria to get virulent. The map reveals a distinctive sign of the bacteria that may end up being the target of future drug development.

The study made an appearance early online Sept.1 and will also be within the Sept. 13, 2017 journal Genes & Development.

“Now we’ve the coordinates to stop probably the most infectious agents available. By getting many of these pieces, and focusing on how they can fit together, we are able to design new drugs that may shut lower virulence,” stated Maria A. Schumacher, Ph.D., senior study author and also the Nanaline H. Duke Professor of Biochemistry in the Duke College Med school.

F. tularensis is an extremely sturdy organism that may infect a number of hosts, including humans, rabbits and mosquitos, and may survive for days at any given time in dead and decaying carcasses. It’s so virulent a thief has only to inhale 10 microscopic particles from the bacteria to get infected. The Russians and Japanese, along with the Americans as well as their allies, all explored its potential like a biological weapon during The Second World War.

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Following the war, Russians ongoing to build up the agent, trying to find mutations that may allow it to be resistant against antibiotics and therefore much more deadly. The Planet Health Organization has since forecasted that 110 pounds of F. tularensis dispersed more than a town of 5 million people would cause about 250,000 installments of certain illness, and 19,000 deaths.

Despite decades of fervent study, the standards which make this bacteria so pathogenic continue to be not fully understood. Lately, a cluster of genes known as the “Francisella pathogenicity island” emerged that’s required for its virulence. Within this study, researchers transported out battery power of structural, biochemical and cellular studies to define the molecular factors that turn these pathogenicity genes off and on.

They suspected that the stress-sensing molecule or “alarmone” known as ppGpp might may play a role. Alarmones are recognized to react to demanding conditions your clients’ needs survival and virulence in bacteria.

LISTEN: North Korea’s Bioweapon Program: Exactly what do we really know?

Lead study author and Duke graduate student Bonnie J. Cuthbert began by searching at factors that may communicate with ppGpp, like the aptly named protein pathogenicity island gene regulator or PigR, the macrophage growth locus protein A or MglA, and also the stringent starvation protein A or SspA. Cuthbert used a method known as x-ray crystallography to create atomic-level three-dimensional structures of all these proteins, after which put together them one at a time, such as the aspects of a circuit board.

She discovered that MglA and SspA partner up to create a two-part protein which contains a distinctive binding pocket on its bottom for ppGpp. Once this molecule is bound, it recruits PigR and subsequently stabilizes RNA polymerase for this section of the F. tularensis genome, developing a large complex that latches to the DNA to switch around the pathogenicity genes.

They then produced mutations that destroyed the binding pocket for ppGpp. They discovered that once the alarmone couldn’t bind, pathogenicity couldn’t be activated.

“We have uncovered an entirely novel method for controlling virulence,” stated senior study author Richard G. Brennan, Ph.D., James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry and Chair of Biochemistry at Duke College Med school as well as an consultant to Cuthbert. “If we’re able to block this binding pocket, only then do we could stop virulence in F. tularensis. It might be a different way of fighting this bacteria, by disabling it with antivirulence drugs instead of killing it outright with antibiotics.”

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