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August 6, 1997

Infectious Disease and Biological Weapons: Prophylaxis and Mitigation

JAMA. 1997;278(5):435-436. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550050097042

The topic of biological warfare (BW) was last covered systematically by JAMA, as part of a discourse on weapons of mass destruction, in August 1989.1-3 That year marked the bicentennials of the French Revolution and the start of the American presidency. By year's end, 1989 also marked the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and with that the end of the cold war. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) had been in place since 1972; nevertheless, compliance on the part of great states, notably Russia, with that convention was the centerpiece anxiety in 1989. United States national policy was likewise concentrated on the defense of our troops in tactical combat settings.

Medical interests, notably symbolized by the World Health Organization's pleas4 had played a significant role in the diplomatic priority given to the BWC, and then to concern for its enforcement. Since 1989, the Persian Gulf War, the escalation of