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E. What Characteristics Make Agents of Biological Warfare?

Narrator: This is Science Today. The threat of biological warfare was making Americans nervous even before last year's letter-borne anthrax attacks. Yet only four of those twenty-one recent cases proved fatal. One infectious disease expert says the results might have been different had another disease been used instead of anthrax. Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco says there are a number of predictors for what will make biological weaponry more potent.

Rutherford: One is that it needs to be small. If you can get these things down to small enough size, they can be respired all the way down to the alveoli in the lungs. Predictably, you'd have a high ratio of disease to infection. Infecting a hundred people and having two get sick ten years from then is not a particularly good weapon.

Narrator: Nor is the deadliest biological weapon necessarily the best.

Rutherford: Interestingly, the best biological warfare weapons don't cause death. They cause people to be sick because ideally you'd like to tie up all the logistics of the opposing army in taking care of massive non-mortal casualties.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.