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Bioterrorism Could Kill More People than Nuclear War, Bill Gates to Warn World Leaders

CREDIT: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GETTY

CREDIT: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GETTY

Rapid advances in genetic engineering have opened the door for small terrorism groups to tailor and easily turn biological viruses into weapons.

Ben Farmer reports: Bioterrorists could one day kill hundreds of millions of people in an attack more deadly than nuclear war, Bill Gates will warn world leaders.
 “It’s not like when someone says, ‘Hey I’d like some Plutonium’ and you start saying ‘Hmmm.. I wonder why he wants Plutonium?’”
Rapid advances in genetic engineering have opened the door for small terrorism groups to tailor and easily turn biological viruses into weapons. A resulting disease pandemic is currently one of the most deadly threats faced by the world, he believes, yet governments are complacent about the scale of the risk. Biohazard-Suit-Hazmat-Earth-Gas-Mask.jpg
“With nuclear weapons, you’d think you would probably stop after killing 100million. Smallpox won’t stop. Because the population is naïve, and there are no real preparations. That, if it got out and spread, would be a larger number.”
Speaking ahead of an address to the Munich Security Conference, the richest man in the world said that while governments are concerned with the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, they are overlooking the threat of biological warfare.
Because the population is naïve, there are no real preparationsBill Gates
Mr Gates, whose charitable foundation is funding research into quickly spotting outbreaks and speeding up vaccine production, said the defence and security establishment “have not been following biology and I’m here to bring them a little bit of bad news”. gates-large.jpeg
“This is like earthquakes, you should think in order of magnitudes. If you can kill 10 people that’s a one, 100 people that’s a two… Bioterrorism is the thing that can give you not just sixes, but sevens, eights and nines."
Mr Gates will today (Saturday) tell an audience of international leaders and senior officers that the world’s next deadly pandemic “could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist”.

He told the Telegraph: “Natural epidemics can be extremely large. Intentionally caused epidemics, bioterrorism, would be the largest of all.

[Read the full story here, at telegraph.uk]

“With nuclear weapons, you’d think you would probably stop after killing 100million. Smallpox won’t stop. Because the population is naïve, and there are no real preparations. That, if it got out and spread, would be a larger number.”

He said developments in genetic engineering were proceeding at a “mind-blowing rate”. Biological warfare ambitions once limited to a handful of nation states are now open to small groups with limited resources and skills.

He said: “They make it much easier for a non-state person. It doesn’t take much biology expertise nowadays to assemble a smallpox virus. Biology is making it way easier to create these things.”

terrorism-bio.jpg

The increasingly common use of gene editing technology would make it difficult to spot any potential terrorist conspiracy. Technologies which have made it easy to read DNA sequences and tinker with them to rewrite or tweak genes have many legitimate uses.

He said: “It’s not like when someone says, ‘Hey I’d like some Plutonium’ and you start saying ‘Hmmm.. I wonder why he wants Plutonium?’”

Mr Gates said the potential death toll from a disease outbreak could be higher than other threats such as climate change or nuclear war.

He said: “This is like earthquakes, you should think in order of magnitudes. If you can kill 10 people that’s a one, 100 people that’s a two… Bioterrorism is the thing that can give you not just sixes, but sevens, eights and nines.

“With nuclear war, once you have got a six, or a seven, or eight, you’d think it would probably stop. [With bioterrorism] it’s just unbounded if you are not there to stop the spread of it.”

By tailoring the genes of a virus, it would be possible to manipulate its ability to spread and its ability to harm people.

Mr Gates said one of the most potentially deadly outbreaks could involve the humble flu virus. It would be. … (read more)

via telegraph.uk

 

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