Emergent's Shofe advocates Strategic National Stockpile

Anthrax is heavily pursued by potential terrorists for its ease of manufacture, ease of delivery and longevity, Allen Shofe, senior vice president of public affairs at Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., said.

Anthrax spores, which are found in nature, can be produced by dual-use technology, or technology that can be used for both peaceful and military.

Once produced, anthrax spores are easily spread by missiles, rockets, artillery, aerial bombs and sprayers. The resulting release can travel downwind for hundreds of miles, Shofe said.

The spores are also incredibly long lived and able to remain dormant in soil for decades. An island used by the British for anthrax experiments in World War II had to be decontaminated 40 years later.

In addition, Shofe says, anthrax bacteria are odorless, colorless and tasteless and, therefore, there is limited detection capability available to combat such an attack.

An anthrax attack would also cause more carnage than a traditional weapon. 

"The devastating effect of a small amount of anthrax spores used as a biological weapon is equivalent to the effect of a major chemical or nuclear attack," Shofe said.

To combat a potential bioterror attack, Shofe has advocated for the Strategic National Stockpile, which he says serves to protect the civilian population while supplying materials to both state and local governments for distribtution to affected areas.

The stockpile also provides a centralized maintenance and replenishment of desperately needed products and complements the conventional defenses currently being stockpiled.

There is a renewed international focus on preparedness and response measures for a biological attack, Shofe said, with the European Commission taking action to develop a comprehensive action plan to address CBRN threats. The commission has placed a significant focus on the biological subgroup of weapons to create appropriate strategies for countermeasure acquisition and stockpiling.

China, Malasyia and Singapore have recently recognized the international nature of a biological attack and have expressed a desire to improve their countermeasures and strategies.

In the Middle East, India has begun approving more products to combat CBRN attacks and held multiple symposia on countermeasures.

"Terrorism, biological or otherwise, has truly become a global problem," Shofe said.

Shofe says that the steps needed for bioterror-related preparedness on both a national and international scale include ensuring the availability of adequate numbers of immunized military and critical response personnel and the development of military, first responder and civilian immunization plans.

Additionally, adequate stockpiles of antibiotics and vaccine are needed as well as the development of clear-cut distribution logistics.