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January 28, 1998

Physicians and Biological Warfare Agents

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;279(4):273-274. doi:10.1001/jama.279.4.271

To the Editor.—In addition to the well-organized and instructive perspectives presented in the article by Dr Kadlec and colleagues,1 I would like to add 1 more point regarding primary prevention measures against biological weapons. This approach is exactly what physicians and biomedical scientists would have to engage. In 1995, a terrorist group in Japan, the Aum Shinrikyo cult, secretly produced biological weapons such as anthrax spore and botulinum toxin.2 During World War II, Unit 731 in the Japanese Army was the classic and notorious example of production of biological warfare agents and their wartime use.3 Both Aum Shinrikyo and Unit 731 included physicians and microbiology experts. Considering that these individuals seemed to have had an important role in the production of biological weapons, they had violated the most basic bioethical principle, primum non nocere.

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