Anthrax remains greatest threat, top scientist says

A top scientist has warned that an aerosol delivery of anthrax is the most likely method for an attack on U.S. soldiers that would require a vaccine to prevent illness.

C.J. Peters, the John Sealy distinguished university chair in tropical and emerging virology at the University of Texas medical branch at Galveston, made this announcement at the recent annual Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas in San Antonio, Texas, reports.

“These really are agents of mass destruction or mass casualties,” Peters said, reports. “You don't have to go hand to hand with your targets. It could be deployed readily and it's within the reach of motivated terrorist or state actors.

“Anthrax and smallpox are at the top not by accident. Anthrax is, I think, the most likely agent we'll face in the future."

Peters said that Influenza A, which is considered another likely biothreat, is tougher to distribute, making its use in an attack less likely.

“It's the greatest agent as far as its intrinsic importance as a human disease agent, but I don't think it has much to offer in terms of bioterrorism because of a lack of directionality,” Peters said of Influenza A, reports.

Peters said that widespread vaccination is needed to fight anthrax.

“I think that when we get right down to it, most of the problems that we have should be dealt with by education,” Peters said. “Given the large number of small-scale attacks that are possible, you can't deal with all of them, but there may be a situation where large scale attacks are possible and we may need medical countermeasure there and vaccines may be one way to go.”