Caught In a Mosh!

Anthrax was formed in June of 1981 in NYC. For the bands first album, Fistful of Metal (released in 1984), the line up was Scott Ian (guitar), Dan Spitz (guitar), Dan Lilker (bass), Charlie Benante (drums), and Neil Turbin (vocals). For the EP Armed And Dangerous Joey Belladonna replaced Turbin on vocals, and Frank Bello replaced Lilker (who formed Nuclear Assault) on bass. At this point the band was still finding their sound, but the lineup had solidified for what would last them through some of the best albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, whatever you want to call it Anthrax were masters and helped create the sub-genre. What many considered Hard Rock I felt was just Rock, what many considered Heavy Metal I felt was Hard Rock, now Anthrax was a band deserving of the title Heavy Metal. During the late 80s and up until about 92 my music collection largely consisted of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, AC/DC, and many Heavy Metal or Hair Metal bands. I always felt like I wanted something harder and faster, music so driven that you can barely absorb it while listening to it, Anthrax was probably the closest to this. (Over the years I’ve found some hardcore punk/skate punk that also comes close.)

In 1985 the band released Spreading the Disease. It contained mostly new songs (as opposed to Armed And Dangerous, which was largely a reproduction of Fistful of Metal with the new line-up and a more solid sound) and firmly planted the band in the metal scene. From there they only got better. 1987 brought us Among The Living one of the great albums by Anthrax. It covers a broad range of topics for a metal band. It had tributes to Stephen King ("Among The Living") and Judge Dredd("I Am The Law"). Pop-culture references are seldom heard in metal. It had songs that address social issues like racial prejudice ("Indians") and drug abuse ("Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)"). It also hit some standard metal themes. This album rocks.

With the EP I’m the Man the band did something truly unique, a rap/rock fusion from the rock side. Long before Limp Bizkit, ICP, Korn, Orgy, or the rest of the army of rap/rock bands from the late 1990s early 2000s there was Anthrax. “I’m the Man” was like a thunder shock to my friends and I. We all listened to Heavy Metal and Rap. Besides coming from the rock side this was also the first blend of metal (as opposed to just rock) and rap that I know of. And it delivered. (Later came the band Body Count, who is probably the first band to come largely from the rap side and really capture metal’s true spirit.)

Next up was State of Euphoria, which was a bit of a disappointment. Still there are a few great songs on here like "Be All, End All", "Schism", "Misery Loves Company", and the cover of Trust’s "Antisocial." "Antisocial" being a sort of personal anthem of mine.

Well they came back with what is my favorite Anthrax album and one of my favorite albums of all time, Persistence of Time. While I like the band’s ability to lighten it up and put a silly song or two on an album, this album was nothing but serious, and it gives it a power, an essence of pure metal that few have matched on even a single song let alone an entire album. With Ian and Spitz dueling it out on guitars and Benante going ape on drums this album kicks ass like no other. The lyrics are easily the best the band ever put together. The singles off this album were "Keep It in the Family", "Belly of the Beast", and the cover of Joe Jackson’s "Got the Time." I can’t list my favorites off this album cause I would simply list every track.

Yet again this band shows its creative side and follows up their most serious album with Attack of the Killer B’s, a collection of B-sides, covers, silly songs, and obscurities. Even With all the good stuff on this album two things really stand out for me. First was "I'm the Man '91", a remake of "I'm the Man", which my friends and I knew every freaking word to and would bust off into a rendition of it whenever we where just standing around with nothing to do. Second was a collaboration song with Public Enemy, "Bring the Noise", originally a PE song the collaboration single and video may have eclipsed anything either group had done individually. A rap/metal fusion that may have given most of the world their first taste of such a beast.

And that was the peak of Anthrax. The story takes a bit of a down turn here. The band kicks out Joey Belladonna for John Bush (of Armored Saint), a more traditional metal singer than Belladonna. I can’t recall ever finding out a good reason for why Belladonna was kicked out. One metal fan I knew instantly gave up on them. I waited for the album Sound of White Noise to be released. Anthrax was not the same. This not to say the album was bad. I liked the album. There are some really good metal songs on it. But it wasn't the Anthrax I knew and loved. To me it didn't stand out from the rest of the metal scene like previous albums. The music scene was changing as a whole with the blossoming Seattle grunge sound. Many say Anthrax was trying to follow the changing music, which isn’t a position they are used to. They had always been the innovators.

Stomp 442 continued the trend started with Sound of White Noise and the band had changed again, Spitz was gone. They added Paul Cook as a replacement, and Darrell Abbott (from Pantara), better known as Diamond Darrell or Dimebag Darrell, also played some on the album (I need to look up more info on this). Personally this album was a let down for me. Finally the band reduced their ranks to just Bello, Benante, Bush, and Ian and released Volume 8: The Threat Is Real. I’ve never heard the album, allmusic says it is better than Stomp 442, but the band still hasn’t recovered. Will they ever? Volume 8 was released in 1998, it is now 2001, and we have yet to hear from the band again (other than a best of album). I’ve closed the book on my favorite metal band of all time, but damn it was a good book.

Return of the Killer A’s: The Best of Anthrax -– Beyond (1999)
Inside Out -- Import (1999)
Volume 8: The Threat Is Real -- Tommy Boy Records (1998)
Moshers 1986-1991 -- Import (1998)
Stomp 442 -- Elektra Records (1995)
Live – the Island Years -- Island Records (1994)
Sound of White Noise -- Elektra Records (1993)
Penikufesin -- Alex Records (1993)
Attack of the Killer B’s -- Island Records (1991)
Persistence of Time -- Island Records (1990)
State of Euphoria -- Island Records (1988)
I’m the Man -- Island Records (1987)
Among the Living -- Island Records (1987)
Spreading the Disease -- Island Records (1985)
Armed and Dangerous -- Megaforce Records (1985)
Fistful of Metal -- Megaforce Records (1984)

With the recent events across the world -- the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the subsequent bombing of Al Qaeda training grounds and Taliban strongholds, there is much fear in the US media about a terrorist backlash against the US citizens. The media is largely playing on the fears of the populace, which is easily done given the level of information we receive.

Without a doubt, the biggest fear from a terrorist backlash would be the effect of a chemical weapon or a biological weapon being released in a heavily-populated area, with Anthrax being the most common feared weapon.

Upon doing research, this entire notion is absurd. Even accounting for the death in Florida, the notion that a group of people can manufacture the type of Anthrax needed for a widespread airborne attack is largely over hyped. Here's why:

  • Anthrax is not suitable for airborne delivery:

    In the absence of wind, even the "dry form" of Anthrax falls rapidly to the ground. Anthrax has a limited life while exposed to air, and people typically don't breathe in dirt. The greatest hazard in this scenario would come from livestock eating grass infected by the fallen Anthrax.

    The wet form of Anthrax is much heavier, and would fall directly to the ground.

  • Much more than one spore is required to start an infection:

    Anthrax cells are Gram positive bacteria, which besides being weaker then Gram negative bacteria, also lends to meaning that the Anthrax cell itself is not harmful, only its excrement. Anthrax releases toxic chemicals (the processes are not fully understood yet by chemists) which are the fatal component. Low levels of Anthrax are not at all infectious, in fact, wool sorters are exposed to, on average, 150-700 spores an hour. The inhaled infectious dose varies from person to person, but is somewhere around 3,000 spores / ml. The media has been reporting that just one spore can kill a human being. The 3,000 spores / ml is the low limit of the number of spores required to start an infection. The fatal limit in humans is somewhere around the range of 3.0 x 10^6 spores / ml. Buildup in animals before death has been known to go up into the billions. Several billion spores may be released in an airborne attack, but a grown human would still have to inhale enough spores to produce the infectious amount of 3,000 / ml to "catch" Anthrax. Such low amounts are can quickly and easily be remedied by common antibiotics such as penicillin and aureomycin.

  • Advanced laboratory equiment is required to create the "dry form" of Anthrax required for an airborne attack:

    The media has not reported what type of Anthrax was used in the death of Robert Stevens. It is almost certain that the delivery of Anthrax in this case was intentional; however, the chances of the Anthrax being the feared “dry form” are minimal. Advanced laboratories, with equipment costing several hundred million dollars are required to aerosolize the spores. The equipment to do such a thing isn't as expensive as the equipment required to make sure the creators and the handlers of the aerosolized Anthrax aren't infected in the process. Even Iraq, who we feared had many Anthrax-based warheads do not have the capability to create dry Anthrax. Their warheads were full of "wet" Anthrax, which is very ineffective in any type of mass destruction.

The media has had a long history of hyping stories to gain ratings. Unfortunately, the latest events, while of a gravely serious matter, have proven to be over hyped. Chemical and Biological weapons are something to be feared, and the threat is definitely real that an attack could happen to innocent civilians. But the media needs to be more responsible in their portrayal of such scenarios. Attention needs to turn to preparing citizens towards what should be done in the event of an attack, not how the citizens will die in the event of an attack. The media must become more responsible in their portrayal of terrorist scenarios, lest we become a more panicked state than we currently are. In that event, not only have the terrorists succeeded greatly, they have done so through minimal effort and the help of the very news outlets their victims have come to rely upon.


It is important to note, with regard to using the cutaneous vaccine to innoculate people against the use of anthrax as a biological weapon, that it is completely untested in such a mode.

Sure, it's the best plan we have, but as the entire U. S. Army is getting vaccinated with it without proof that it'll work, it's essentially a non-voluntary longitudinal study.

In 1978, Gang of Four released their first 7" on Fast Product records. The single's second track, "Love Like Anthrax", will never be the group's most popular track (that honor, in the main, undoubtly goes to the lackluster track "I Love A Man In A Uniform", and among fans, to the excellent "Damaged Goods") but to my mind it is one of the crucial, inspired early statements of the post-punk movement.

We are introduced to the song (the opener on side b of this 45) with a quiet wail of feedback, followed by a louder, more insistent slashing of distorted guitar. This goes on for a few rhythymless bars until the drums and then bass make their quietly thundering entrace (this is the only way to describe it, I swear) and the guitar exits with as little fanfare as it entered with. The rhythym section here is smoothly hypnotic: rock steady 8th-note tones, with snare accents on the 5 and 8, holding your mind's eye unwavering, while the bass loops through a 4-bar rising and falling dance. This is the foundation of the track, and it is not hard to imaging a punk chanteuse like Debbie Harry singing a whisky lullabye over the top. No such comforts are to be found here, however.

"It's practically not even a song at all!" you can hear the pop critic mutter. No guitar, no hook, and when we are introduced to the narrators, they seem insistent on drowning each other out -- what melody is to be found in the lead vocals is half obscured by a dark, spoken vocal, which is holding a completely different conversation -- save the odd line on which our background poet chooses to chime in with a doubling of the singsong, snapping your attention momentarily from the song itself to the words, which pound almost as much as the toms.

This is a song against songs, a song against love. It's not punk, and that is a good thing, because the vapid nihilism of the punk philosophers of the day leaves as much to be desired as the culture against which these bitter souls rail. This is a criticism of media and pop portrayal of love.

Woke up this morning desperation a.m.
What I've been saying won't say them again
My head's not empty, it's full with my brain
The thoughts I'm thinking
Like piss down a drain

And I feel like a beetle on its back
And there's no way for me to get up
Love'll get you like a case of anthrax
And that's something I don't want to catch

Ought to control what I do to my mind
Nothing in there but sunshades for the blind
Only yesterday I said to myself
The things I'm doing are not good
For my health

The second vocal track has not been preserved in written form, so far as I know. It is easy to catch snippets about "reverb" and "tape echo", but a full transcription would be rather difficult. That just gives the song room to grow, as by the second recording of the song (with title shortened to the simple "Anthrax"), for the band's debut album, Entertainment, the second track had become a full scale indictment of the pop music industry, one which complements the approach of the rest of the track quite nicely:

Love crops up quite a lot as something to sing about,
most groups make most of their songs about falling in
love or how happy they are to be in love, you
occasionally wonder why these groups do sing about it all
the time - it's because these groups think there's something very
special about it either that or else it's because everybody
else sings about it and always has, you know to burst into
song you have to be inspired and nothing inspires quite like
love. These groups and singers think that they appeal to
everyone by singing about love because apparently
everyone has or can love or so they would have you
believe anyway but these groups seem to go along with the
belief that love is deep in everyones' personality and I
don't think we're saying there's anything wrong with love,
we just don't think that what goes on between two people
should be shrouded with mystery.

The statement made, we are brought back down to reality with a few more bursts of feedbacky guitar, and the song is done...

The post-punk movement is characterized by stripped-down, sparse arrangements and dour vocals. It reflects an era of increasing disenchantment with mainstream values, as the economies of both the United States and the United Kingdom went out to lunch and left a bitter trail of poverty and failed dreams in its wake. This song captures much of that attitude precisely, and came at a time when middle class folk were turning to gaudy clothing and shallow late-disco music in a vain attempt to block out the problems that faced them.

This track can be found in it's original form on the Fast Products Damaged Goods 7" and the third Fast Products compilation, Mutant Pop (which features the aforementioned 7" in its entirety). The second version can be found on the Entertainment LP, the Gang of Four compilation CDs A Brief History of the 20th Century and 100 Flowers Bloom and the Dogs in Space soundtrack. Both versions are highly recommended.

Anthrax throughout the ages - courtesy of CNN

1500 B.C - Fifth Egyptian plague, affecting livestock, and the sixth, known as the plague of boils, are symptomatic of anthrax.

1600's - "Black Bane", thought to be anthrax, kills 60,000 cattle in Europe.

1876 - Robert Koch confirms bacterial origin of anthrax.

1880 - First successful immunization of livestock against anthrax.

1915 - German agents in the United States believed to have injected horses, mules, and cattle with anthrax on their way to Europe during World War I.

1937 - Japan starts biological warfare program in Manchuria, including tests involving anthrax.

1942 - United Kingdom experiments with anthrax at Gruinard Island off the coast of Scotland. It was only recently decontaminated.

1943 - United States begins developing anthrax weapons.

1945 - Anthrax outbreak in Iran kill 1 million sheep.

1950's and 60's - U. S. biological warfare program continues after World War II at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

1969 - President Richard Nixon ends United States offensive biological weapons program. Defensive work continues.

1970 - Anthrax vaccine approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.

1972 - International convention outlaws development or stockpiling of biological weapons.

1978-80 - Human anthrax epidemic strikes Zimbabwe, infecting more than 6,000 and killing as many as 100.

1979 - Aerolized anthrax spores released accidentally at a Soviet Union military facility, killing about 68 people.

1991 - U.S. troops vaccinated for anthrax in preparation for the Gulf War.

1990-93 - Terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo, releases anthrax in Tokyo but no one is injured.

1995 - Iraq admits it produced 8,500 liters of concentrated anthrax as part of its biological wepaons program.

1998 - U. S. Secretary of Defense, William Cohen approves anthrax vaccination plan for all military service members.

2001 - Still in the making

In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly "Basket Full Of Puppies". Actually, just the fact that we are making jokes about our name sucks.

In the twenty years we've been known as "Anthrax", we never thought the day would come that our name would actually mean what it really means. When I learned about anthrax in my senior year biology class, I thought the name sounded "metal". Everyone in my neighborhood had a band with an "er" name, like "Ripper" or "Deceiver" or "Killers" and I wanted to be different. "Anthrax" sounded cool, aggressive, and nobody knew what it was. Until a few years ago most people thought we'd made it up. Even our 1985 album, "Spreading The Disease" was just a play on the name. We were spreading our music to the masses.

Before the tragedy of September 11th the only thing scary about Anthrax was our bad hair in the 80's and the "Fistful Of Metal" album cover. Most people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia and death. Suddenly our name is not so cool. To be associated with these things we are against is a strange and stressful situation. To us, and to millions of people, it is just a name. We don't want to change the name of the band, not because it would be a pain in the ass, but because we hope that no further negative events will happen and it won't be necessary. We hope and pray that this problem goes away quietly and we all grow old and fat together.

Be safe,
Scott, Charlie, Frank and John

PS - If an Anthrax member gets Anthrax, call Alanis Morrisette. That would be ironic. Don't you think?

Press release issued by Anthrax, October 10, 2001
No I am NOT making this up. Go to if you doubt me. And the snarky postscript is from the band, too. Now leemee alone, sheesh!
Now Vice_hkpnx informs me that Anthrax's new concert tour (with Judas Priest) will be named Operation Enduring Metal.

Everyone's talking about how bad anthrax is, and how it kills, but nobody is talking much about how to kill it.

The reality is, anthrax has been around for many years, and it has been a hazard to anyone who works with sheep or goat hair, so methods have been found to kill it. (update) Recent events have brought this to popular light, and additional methods have been researched and brought into production in the following year, so I've updated this writeup to include them.

Here's a short list of several common methods:

  • 0.1% bleach solution 1
  • daylight (UV exposure kills most biological agents), although extended exposure may be necessary with anthrax
  • chemicals like formaldehyde used in treating animal skins and hair
  • chemicals normally used in treatment of potable water (so it is not going to be useful to contaminate the water supply)
  • gamma ray irradiation, which is used in food preservation, and is being considered for mail (at least one town is already doing this), although 10x the dose to kill salmonella will be needed.
  • Exposure to ozone has been shown to be at least partially effective in killing antrax.
  • chlorine dioxide was used by the US gov to clean up several of the contaminated buildings.
  • Methyl bromide fumigation has been experimentally shown to be a cheap and effective method for killing antrax.3 Ironically, Methyl bromide appears to have been discontinued due to proported reactions with ozone.
  • Commercial devices have been developed that use one or more of the methods above to kill anthrax in mail and air conditioning systems.

    What does NOT kill anthrax, but has been rumored to do so:

  • Heat from a steam iron is NOT hot enough; anthrax can survive2 temperatures up to 318°F. Anthrax was originally picked as a biological weapon partly because it could survive distribution by bombs.
  • Similarly, a microwave oven will not impart enough energy into the antrax to kill it (at least, not without catching your mail on fire).

As noted above, Gruinard Island was recently "decontaminated". They sprayed a dilute solution of formaldehyde and salt water. I'm sure this got what was on the surface, but archiologists claim to have found live 100 year old anthrax spores burried, so who's to say the decontamination was totally effective... I guess you don't want to go digging there.


1 U.S. Army field guide
2 Thanks, snopes!

This was a research paper for my pestilence and civilization class

The purpose of this report is to examine the nature of biological warfare and its agents. The main focus will be on Anthrax bacteria as a biological weapon and the effects it has on the bodily functions.

A History of Biological Warfare

Before we get into the various aspects of Biological warfare it is important to understand exactly what it is. According to the website designed by students in Chem 450 at Cal Poly “Biological Warfare” is the use of disease to harm or kill an adversary’s military forces, population, food, and livestock. This includes any living (non-living virus) microorganism or bioactive substance that is produced by a microorganism and can be delivered by conventional warhead or civilian means. The use of Biological Warfare has been documented as early as 1346, at Kaffa the bodies of plague infested Tartars were thrown over the walls of the besieged city. The greatest advancements in biological warfare have come in the 20th century, starting just prior to WWI. Although most of the advanced countries were experimenting and developing biological agents for use as weapons, there were two documented tests that helped open the eyes of the world to the threat of biological weapons.
At the end of WW II Britain was conducting extensive tests on anthrax bacteria and its effective infecting range when delivered with a conventional warhead. The military decided to conduct tests on Gruinard Island. The isolated island was located far off the coast of Scotland and was thought to be a good spot to test while avoiding any contamination of the mainland. The experiments were conducted and shortly thereafter sheep and cattle started dying from the disease on the mainland. The authorities tried to decontaminate the island by setting fires and bleaching it, unfortunately the measures were ineffective. The spores embedded themselves in the soil and as a result decontamination was impossible. There are still minor outbreaks on the coast of Scotland when birds returning from the island transmit the disease to livestock. Another outbreak of Anthrax occurred in the former Soviet Union in 1979. After an accident at a research facility, a large outbreak of Anthrax was reported in the countryside, downwind of the plant.
Until this point the Soviets were not known to have an extensive bio-warfare program. This triggered the Western countries and its allies to start upgrading their defensive capabilities. Throughout history there have been many other incidences where biological weapons have been tested or used on the general population. The majority of these cases have occurred in the past 75 years. The threat of biological warfare is no longer a far-fetched fantasy, it is a reality.

What is Anthrax?

Bacillus anthracis is a naturally occurring spore forming bacteria. It is this bacterium that is responsible for the various forms of Anthrax found in both humans and animals. Bacillus anthracis has a protective protein coat that allows it to survive for decades at a time where ever it may be found, e.g. soil, air, or in a laboratory. Once inside the body the bacteria have an incubation period of 1 to 6 days. There are three types of anthrax humans can get, cutaneous anthrax, inhalation anthrax, and gastrointestinal anthrax.
Cutaneous anthrax is the result of the bacterium entering the body through a break in the skin layer. The symptoms of cutaneous anthrax may vary slightly from case to case but the most common sign of infection is an itchy bump at the site of infection. The sore continues to grow until it is roughly 2-3 cm in diameter with the center portion decaying into black tissue. Cutaneous anthrax is usually treated successfully with antibiotics, according to Science magazine only 15% of reported cases have resulted in death.
Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs when a human consumes the meat of an infected animal. Symptoms start to show within 8-10 hours; they range from mild stomach discomfort to severe diarrhea, fever and vomiting of blood. Gastrointestinal anthrax is the rarest form of the disease because infected livestock will usually perish before they are used for consumption.The survival rate depends on how early the infection is diagnosed. Antibiotics are the most effective treatment, death results in 25%-60% of cases (Arnot Ogden Medical Center).
Inhalation anthrax is the deadliest form of anthrax known to man, it is this form of anthrax that is most likely to be utilized in a bio-weapons attack. Inhalation anthrax occurs when a person inhales the bacillus anthracis spores into their lungs. The bacterium then travels to the lymph nodes and begins multiplying. Once in the lymph nodes the bacterium will spread through the entire body and the lungs are the first vital organs to succumb to the toxins produced by the bacteria. The toxins will cause bleeding in the lungs and they fill up with fluid very rapidly, death can result in as little as 24 hours. It is extremely important to note that it is the toxins produced by the bacteria that play the largest role in destroying the body. Toward the final stages of the disease the amount of toxin in the blood stream is almost the same as the concentration of organisms in the blood. The symptoms of inhalation anthrax are quite similar to those of pneumonia in the initial stages of the infection (mild chest discomfort, fever coughing) as the infection becomes more acute there will be severe difficulty breathing followed by total respiratory failure. Inhalation anthrax is extremely lethal and death results in almost every case. Antibiotics may postpone death if treatment is started early but by the time the symptoms start showing there is little that can be done to kill the bacterium.

Anthrax as a Biological Weapon

If the bacillus anthracis is to be harnessed as a biological weapon there must be an effective mode of dispersal. Aircraft sprayers (crop dusters), ballistic missiles, and hand held aerosols are all able to disperse anthrax spores with great efficiency. The main focus of an attack would be to cause inhalation anthrax because of the high fatalities that would occur. The bacteria would have to be grown, dried and ground into powder before it could be used as an aerosol. There are some big advantages and disadvantages of using anthrax as a biological weapon:

Advantages of Using Anthrax as a Weapon of War
According to the American Department of Defense the amount of the agent necessary to kill millions of people could be less than 100 kilograms (depending on the population in the area of dispersal). The cost of producing this amount anthrax or any other biological weapon is very small, less than $2000. The production and assembly of anthrax into a biological weapon is not that difficult. Another advantage of using anthrax is that any country or small group of terrorists with an advanced knowledge of pharmaceutical operations could conceivably grow enough bacteria in a small lab to kill the population of an entire country. This type of operation would be extremely hard to detect because the equipment necessary to carry out the procedure is identical to the equipment found in every pharmaceutical lab. A distinct advantage of using an anthrax attack versus a conventional attack (nuclear, infantry) is the number of people needed to carry out the operation. A conventional attack would require the organization of a large number of people whereas a single person could carry out a biological attack. When a conventional attack occurs the attacking forces destroy enemy forces, buildings, resources, and industries. This is not the case in a biological attack, the opposition will lose all of its armed forces and civilian population while buildings, and resources remain intact. This is a very appealing scenario if you want to take over another country. If an Anthrax outbreak was to occur it would be very difficult to determine who was responsible for the outbreak, if anyone can be blamed at all. Unfortunately anthrax occurs naturally in regions all around the world. This makes it hard for one country to blame another country or group for the outbreak. The greatest advantage anthrax has over other potential biological weapons is the ability for it to go undetected until it’s too late. Anthrax spores are colorless, odorless, and tasteless and are totally undetectable when dispensed with the aid of an aerosol device. By the time a population realized it has been exposed to the airborne spores it is too late to treat them. These factors make anthrax an extremely appealing biological weapon for small countries or terrorist groups that want to inflict damage on a more powerful adversary.

Disadvantages of Using Anthrax as a Biological Weapon
When anthrax is employed as a biological weapon it must dispersed in the air to be deemed truly effective. The air borne spores can move unpredictably and it is hard to say exactly where they will travel. This is a major disadvantage because an attacking army could potentially infect its own troops if wind conditions weren’t favorable. When using anthrax spores in particular, you are dealing with bacteria that has a life span of decades. It is not practical to take over an area with anthrax and not be able to get rid of it. A major downfall of bio-weapons is the inability to effectively choose a target. During most army operations the main targets are military structures and personnel, a missile has a known capability and range therefore attacks can be precise and well directed. When using bio-weapons, the range of spread cannot be effectively monitored. Anthrax will not differentiate between military personnel and innocent civilians. The nature of inhalation anthrax makes it an effective killer but it is not as effective as other diseases such as bubonic plague, because of the way it is transmitted. Inhalation Anthrax is not contagious; it is safe to work with infected individuals without fear of contamination. This is a disadvantage because the bacteria will not proliferate; the amount of anthrax dispersed in the air is roughly the same amount you can expect to find after dispersal.
The disadvantages of anthrax as a weapon are unfortunately outweighed by the advantages especially since some of the disadvantages are only “moral” issues.

Why is Anthrax one of the greatest threats?

In recent years the threat of nuclear war has become less significant, the countries that are advanced enough to have nuclear capabilities have imposed serious restrictions on their use. The devastation that nuclear bombs possess have been realized and their use is considered only as a last line of defense. However the threat of bio-terrorism and biological warfare is on the rise. Anthrax in particular has been thought of as the weapon of choice for any group or country considering a biological attack. The question is why? One possible reason is that Anthrax levels the playing field for countries and organizations that have neither the money, manpower nor technology to support a nuclear program or similar large-scale operation. With biological weapons you have a device capable or doing as much damage as a nuclear weapon at a fraction of the cost. According to a website published by Johns Hopkins University the number of countries that have active bio-warfare programs has almost doubled since 1989. Anthrax is one of the top choices for a bio-weapon because it isn’t that difficult to obtain. It occurs naturally in some areas of the world and it can be isolated and grown from contaminated tissue or soil samples. Similar bacteria such as smallpox and bubonic plague are just as deadly but are harder to isolate. The only known stockpiles of smallpox and plague bacteria are held by the Russian and United States governments. Once a sample of the bacteria is obtained it could be reproduced quite easily by an undergraduate student. The students in Dr. Jones biochemistry class at Cal Poly published a website that outlined the procedure for isolating and reproducing the bacteria. The steps were almost exactly the same as a lab they had just completed to isolate a different kind of bacteria.

The steps are as follows:
1.Select a source of protein you want a mass quantity of
2.Isolate and purify total RNA
3. Make a cDNA copy using Reverse Transcriptase
4.Amplify the cDNA using PCR
5. Clone the fragment by inserting into a plasmid and transforming an E. coli
6.Express protein and purify protein

If information on these procedures is so easily accessible, then it is only a matter of time before someone uses it to create a weapon of destruction. The preceding points were only to illustrate the probability of a biological attack with Anthrax spores vs. another agent. In no way is Anthrax the only bio-warfare threat, as there are many agents that are as dangerous as anthrax or even worse.

Prevention of Anthrax

As outlined earlier, most forms of anthrax are treatable with antibiotics. Inhalation anthrax is not. In regions where anthrax is found naturally, animals can be inoculated against the disease. There is also a vaccine for humans, which has been reported to be 95% effective by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is now mandatory for all U.S. military personnel to receive the vaccine because of the risk of anthrax being deployed as a biological weapon. The vaccine is available for people who may be working with the bacteria on a daily basis e.g. veterinarians, butchers. Unfortunately the vaccine is not made available to the general public so civilians must take their own precautions to avoid becoming infected. The main concern for a civilian is to avoid breathing in the harmful endospores. A gas mask or any other facial covering would decrease the chances of inhaling anthrax. Remaining indoors will not help; the spores are so small they will easily enter the smallest cracks in a building. A rubber suit or any full body covering can also decrease chances of contacting the bacteria, although without a proper facemask any suit is useless. The best advice is to always be aware of your surroundings, and take note of suspicious activity. If you feel that you may have been exposed to some form of Anthrax, BW agent antibiotic treatment should be started immediately. Early treatment of anthrax will greatly improve the chances of survival.

Although the threat of biological warfare exists, it is not necessary to become fearful about the subject. It would benefit people to read up on the subject and become familiar with the various agents of bio-warfare. A basic knowledge of what to do in case of a possible outbreak of a disease may just save your life. Although this application of biotechnologyy is very negative, there are many other forms of biotechnology that are making this world a better place to live. So do not panic!

Anthrax, a Practical Guide for Citizens: What You Should Know, What You Can Do, & How It Came to This by Parents' Committee for Public Awareness

An"thrax (#), n. [L., fr. Gr. coal, carbuncle.]

1. Med. (a)

A carbuncle.


A malignant pustule.

2. Biol.

A microscopic, bacterial organism (Bacillus anthracis), resembling transparent rods. [See Illust. under Bacillus.]


An infectious disease of cattle and sheep. It is ascribed to the presence of a rod-shaped bacterium (Bacillus anthracis), the spores of which constitute the contagious matter. It may be transmitted to man by inoculation. The spleen becomes greatly enlarged and filled with bacteria. Called also splenic fever.


© Webster 1913.

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