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"BIOLOGICAL warfare—that pushes a lot of hot buttons in people emotionally," Michael R. Groves, DVM, PhD, an expert on the subject, said at the recent meeting in Chicago, Ill, of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC).
The session was planned while Operation Desert Storm focused attention on the possibility that various forms of unconventional weapons might be used in the Persian Gulf (JAMA. 1991;265:705). Groves says that "nowhere [are the 'buttons pushed'] more so than in a group of microbiologists and infectious disease people who have spent their lives trying to do away with disease, and here we have somebody wanting to start disease using microorganisms."
He and others then described what the loaded phrase means in the United States today.
Groves, who heads the Epidemiology Department at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, is retired (with the rank of colonel) from the position of "research area
Goldsmith MF. Defensive Biological Warfare Researchers Prepare to Counteract 'Natural' Enemies in Battle, at Home. JAMA. 1991;266(18):2522-2523. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470180022004