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Book and Media Reviews
August 13, 2008

Medical Aspects of Biological Warfare

JAMA. 2008;300(6):735-736. doi:10.1001/jama.300.6.735

Since the US bioterrorism attacks of 2001 involving dried Bacillus anthracis spores, the world has changed and the nature of human conflict has dramatically shifted to lessen the distinction between soldiers and noncombatants. Purposeful biological agent attacks against civilian populations have broadened understanding of exactly where the forward edge of the battle area resides. However, ideological distinctions related to biological agents are not made when it comes to infection, injury, and death. As progress is made in collective measures to increase physical security at airports and within cities, human populations will still remain vulnerable to the ill effects of biological agents. In addition, from a cost standpoint, the deliberate dissemination of a biological agent within a population remains one of the deadliest options when considering “cost versus killing.” In the future, genetic engineering and altered drug resistance patterns may challenge standard countermeasures as the United States attempts to tackle the threats of the new biological frontier.