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Biological Science and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security Appendix H Highest Priority Measures for Creating a System to Counter Biological Terrorism1 There have been numerous cases in which various countries have conducted research and technology programs that, while not formally violating the 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, nevertheless give indications of clearly definite aims. These cases attest to the fact that this international agreement lacks sufficient restraining power, and they indirectly highlight the relative ease with which extremist groups and even lone terrorists could gain access to the basic active components in these types of weapons of mass destruction, namely infectious pathogens and toxins. Also of serious concern is the enormous number of facilities—more than a thousand worldwide—that maintain collections of pathogenic microorganisms and viruses. Now quite common in the literature, the term “biological terrorism” and its synonyms essentially convey the concept of “microbiological terrorism.” Let us also note in passing that, due to the lack of clarity on the meaning of infectious pathogens that has become firmly established in the general conceptual framework, certain authors equate them with toxins, although essentially and even terminologically the two represent fundamentally different categories of harmful agents. People worldwide were shaken as a precedent was set for the wide use of infectious pathogens by the sending of contaminated materials through the mail in the United States and other countries in the last third of 2001. The leaders of world powers were forced to react to these incidents. Despite the fact that the 1 Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins.
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Biological Science and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security spectrum of reactions was very broad—from the emotionally exaggerated statement of George Bush regarding “ongoing biological warfare” to the adequate assessment of Vladimir Putin that “the use of biological agents for terrorist purposes has become a reality”—society was united in its opinion that the world had changed in the course of a few days and the twenty-first century had become qualitatively different. In our opinion, despite their seemingly “modest” scale, the 13 anthrax cases resulting from this malicious act, five of which were fatal, must be condemned by mankind just as strongly as previous instances in which weapons of mass destruction were used, such as the chlorine gas attacks during World War I and the atomic bombings of Japanese cities during World War II. The reality of the use of infectious pathogens means we must decisively reject certain stereotypical opinions that have arisen not only among casual observers but also most unfortunately even in certain professional circles, namely that biological weapons problems are mythical and illusory in nature and may even have been dreamed up by military specialists for their own self-interested purposes. Biological terrorism is an enormous social evil, an extremely dangerous phenomenon carrying with it the threat of consequences that are difficult to predict yet intentionally unfavorable. Efforts to counter it will be effective only if they come in the form of a system of balanced and coordinated measures carried out at the federal, regional, and local levels. Of course, such measures must be scientifically based, technically feasible, and economically realistic. Here, the interests of effectively countering bioterrorism both as a global phenomenon and at the local incident level require careful and comprehensive scientific research and development work on a systemic basis, with the broadest possible international integration and the involvement of a large number of competent specialists. Understandably, the results of these systemic efforts will not be immediately evident; however, due to the extreme urgency of this problem, measures must be taken now, building on the basis of a thorough assessment of the current situation and aided by the knowledge and experience that have been accumulated in eliminating epidemic foci of especially dangerous infections and overcoming the consequences of other emergency situations. On this basis, we could already propose a number of measures that, if implemented, would facilitate progress in resolving the very complex problem of creating a bioterrorism prevention and response system. In our view, this problem must primarily be resolved in conjunction with efforts to deal with two closely linked issues, namely the biological security of the country as a whole and the sanitary-epidemiological welfare of the population. Therefore, the following actions would be expedient: Assigning full authority and responsibility for leading and coordinating the bioterrorism-related efforts of various departments and agencies to those federal and local agencies responsible for overall biological security, with these agencies to include substantial representation from specialists from the State Sanitary Epidemiological Surveillance Service.
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Biological Science and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security Organizing or reestablishing on the basis of revised principles the activities of representative public organizations (problem-focused federal-level commissions, non-governmental scientific-technical coordinating councils of the Defense Ministry’s Scientific Research Department), which previously set priorities and coordinated nationwide research and development efforts as well as the implementation of R&D results by industry. It is of fundamental importance to develop a concept for the country’s biological security during the first decades of the twenty-first century. This concept should define such crucial points as sources of biological danger; organizational principles for biological security; personnel and technical means for ensuring biological security; scientific-technical policy; top priorities for the development of the means and methods of protection; organizational, technical, and economic approaches to creating the necessary human and resource reserves; and so forth. The task of leading efforts to create this concept should understandably be assigned to the same federal agency that will be responsible for the country’s biological security. The biological security concept should also serve as a basis for the development of an orderly and well-focused policy on scientific research and development efforts on the above-mentioned related problems. Meanwhile, without waiting for the completion of the concept, a number of obviously useful measures could be taken aimed to improve the quality of products being created, reduce development costs, and speed the introduction in practice of new medical protection products derived from biological substances. Such measures could include the following: Conducting an expert review of all existing and planned programs of scientific research, testing, and design work aimed at creating products for medical use in the aim of using this work as the basis for a State Program for the Development and Industrial Production of Medical Protection Products for the Period up to 2010. This program must include only those products that have firm technical and economic foundations and are, if possible, dual-use in nature. This will promote the more efficient use of budgetary resources by eliminating duplication of orders by different agencies for the same product and ensuring the timely transfer of dual-use products from reserve to current production status. Designating the Main Military Medical Administration of the Russian Ministry of Defense as the single general state customer for medical protection products, with this agency to be responsible for compiling and submitting a government-wide order for the entire range of such products. Calculating the volume of stockpiles of medical protection products needed by the entire country and determining the procedures by which relevant agencies and departments will assemble, maintain, and continuously refresh their supplies.
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Biological Science and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security Clarifying and revising previously issued orders for specific types of domestically produced medical protection products and compiling a list of the names and amounts of products that must be imported from abroad. Evaluating the capacities of Russian industry and preparing proposals on including the following categories of medical protection products in long-range production plans: products previously developed and having the necessary technical and regulatory documentation that were never put into production products produced by enterprises in the other republics of the former Soviet Union that are now hard to obtain in the Russian Federation products in current demand that had to be removed from production for financial, technical, or other reasons Reorganizing licensing system activities conducted by the various committees under the Russian Ministry of Health (those on pharmacology; pharmacopeia; medical and immunobiological preparations; disinfectants, perfumes, and cosmetics; and new medical equipment and devices) as well as their operational affiliates (the Scientific Research Institute of Pharmacology, the L.A. Tarasevich State Institute of Standardization and Control of Medical Biological Preparations, the Scientific Research Institute of Disinfection Science, the Scientific Research and Testing Institute of Medical Equipment) in reviewing data on new medical protection products and programs for testing them at all stages of development. A number of measures merit special discussion. Of exceptional importance in ensuring biological security, countering bioterrorism, and promoting the sanitary-epidemiological welfare of the population is the matter of organizing a nationwide unified automated system for biological monitoring. Scientific research institutes in the microbiological and epidemiological fields, State Sanitary Epidemiological Surveillance Centers, and other practical sanitary-epidemiological and veterinary institutions of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Agricultural Production could serve as the basis for such a system. A significant set of measures of a legal and organizational-technical nature should also be implemented immediately. A central focus of such measures should be the strengthening of Russian legislation providing criminal penalties appropriate to the most serious crimes against humanity with regard to unauthorized actions involving the acquisition (isolation), storage, accumulation, or use for inhumane purposes of infectious human, plant, and animal pathogens presenting a potential or likely threat to human life or health. The following actions are also necessary:
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Biological Science and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security standardizing and strengthening the system of requirements for ensuring security at facilities involved in the isolation, storage, accumulation, scientific study, etc., of infectious human, animal, and plant pathogens minimizing the number of facilities (especially in major population centers) that are permitted to store Group 1 or Group 2 pathogens and selecting the best staffed and equipped institutions in the various regions to serve as interagency centers for the storage of such infectious agents giving these interagency centers federal priority status, providing them with armed guard services, instituting the appropriate access pass control regime, equipping their grounds with hard-to-overcome barriers with electronic alarm systems, and installing automatic intrusion and fire alarm systems in buildings where pathogen collections are housed requiring these federal priority status institutions to work with local and regional law enforcement and internal affairs agencies to develop antiterrorism security plans and adopt appropriate operating practices accordingly eliminating and preventing the future creation and augmentation of so-called “personal” collections of Group 1 and Group 2 pathogenic microorganisms and viruses, collections that are currently poorly controlled Personnel training matters also require immediate attention inasmuch as inadequate understanding of biological weapons problems in the 1980s and 1990s led to practically the complete disappearance from training program curricula of topics related to protection against biological weapons, the microbiology of infectious pathogens, epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical aspects, and the prevention and treatment of related infectious diseases. As a result, this led to a reduction in the average level of preparedness of specialists to take action in case of an emergency. This situation must be rectified without delay by reviewing relevant training programs and instituting new revised curricula for the training of medical personnel in all categories and specializations, especially epidemiologists, microbiologists, virologists, laboratory medicine specialists, and infectious disease specialists. Of course, these top priority measures recommended for implementation do not touch on all aspects involved in countering bioterrorism in all its diverse forms. In our opinion, however, they will represent real steps toward resolving related problems associated with ensuring the biological security of the country and the sanitary-epidemiological welfare of the population. SOURCE: K. K. Raevsky. Military Medical Academy. 2002. Highest Priority Measures for Creating a System to Counter Biological Terrorism. Military Prevention Medicine: Problems and Perspectives. Proceedings of the First Congress on Military Medical Prevention Programs in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. St. Petersburg (in Russian):75-77. Reprinted with the permission of the Military Medical Academy of the Russian Federation.
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