Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 133, Issue 3–4, pp 129–134 | Cite as

A proposal for the classification of biological weapons sensu lato

  • Lajos RozsaEmail author


Due to historical and legislation reasons, the category of bioweapons is rather poorly defined. Authors often disagree on involving or excluding agents like hormones, psychochemicals, certain plants and animals (such as weeds or pests) or synthetic organisms. Applying a wide definition apparently threatens by eroding the regime of international legislation, while narrow definitions abandon several important issues. Therefore, I propose a category of ‘biological weapons sensu lato’ (BWsl) that is defined here as any tool of human aggression whose acting principle is based on disciplines of biology including particularly microbiology, epidemiology, medical biology, physiology, psychology, pharmacology and ecology, but excluding those based on inorganic agents. Synthetically produced equivalents (not necessarily exact copies) and mock weapons are also included. This definition does not involve any claim to subject all these weapons to international legislation but serves a purely scholarly purpose. BWsl may be properly categorized on the base of the magnitude of the human population potentially targeted (4 levels: individuals, towns, countries, global) and the biological nature of the weapons’ intended effects (4 levels: agricultural-ecological agents, and non-pathogenic, pathogenic, or lethal agents against humans).


Biological weapons Ecological weapons Psychochemical weapons Definition Typology Classification 



This research was supported by the EU and Hungary, co-financed by the European Social Fund in the framework of TÁMOP 4.2.4. A/2-11-1-2012-0001 ‘National Excellence’ Program.


  1. Atlas RM, Dando M (2006) The dual-use dilemma for the life sciences: perspectives, conundrums, and global solutions. Biosecur Bioterror 4:276–286PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cello J, Paul AV, Wimmer E (2002) Chemical synthesis of Poliovirus cDNA: generation of infectious virus in the absence of natural template. Science 297(5583):1016–1018PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cole LA (1999) Risks of publicity about bioterrorism: anthrax hoaxes and hype. Am J Infect Control 27:470–473PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dando MR (1994) Biological warfare in the 21st Century. Brassey’s, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Dando M (2001) Genomics, bioregulators, cell receptors and potential biological weapons. Def Anal 17:239–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dando M (2011) Advances in neuroscience and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Biotechnology Research International, Article ID 973851Google Scholar
  7. Dennis DT, Inglesby TV, Henderson DA, Bartlett JG, Ascher MS, Eitzen E et al (2001) Tularemia as a biological weapon: medical and public health management. JAMA 285:2763–2773PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Galston AW (2001) Falling leaves and ethical dilemmas: Agent Orange in Vietnam. In: Galston AW, Shurr EG (eds) New dimensions in bioethics: science, ethics and the formulation of public policy. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 109–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gilsdorf JR, Zilinskas RA (2005) New considerations in infectious disease outbreaks: the threat of genetically modified microbes. Clin Infect Dis 40:1160–1175PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gould C, Hay A (2006) The South African biological weapons program. In: Wheelis M, Rozsa L, Dando M (eds) Deadly cultures: biological weapons since 1945. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp 191–212Google Scholar
  11. Guthrie R (2010) Effectiveness of international efforts to control biological weapons: activities of the European Union and the limits of regime theory. Dissertation, University of BathGoogle Scholar
  12. Hall JA, Moore CBT (2008) Drug facilitated sexual assault—a review. J Forensic Leg Med 15:291–297PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harris SH (2002) Factories of death: Japanese biological warfare, 1932–1945, and the American cover-up. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hart J (2006) The Soviet biological weapons program. In: Wheelis M, Rozsa L, Dando M (eds) Deadly cultures: biological weapons since 1945. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, pp 132–156Google Scholar
  15. Kagan E (2001) Bioregulators as instruments of terror. Clin Lab Med 21:607–618PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. League of Nations (1925) Protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of bacteriological methods of warfare. Accessed 19 May 2014
  17. Lockwood JA (2008) Six-legged soldiers: using insects as weapons of war. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Maher J, Pierpoint H (2011) Friends, status symbols and weapons: the use of dogs by youth groups and youth gangs. Crime Law Soc Change 55:405–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McNeill JR, Unger CR (2010) Environmental histories of the Cold War. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Null G (2003) Germs, biological warfare, vaccinations: what you need to know. Seven Stories, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Phills JA, Harrold AJ, Whiteman GV, Perelmutter L (1972) Pulmonary infiltrates, asthma and eosinophilia due to Ascaris suum infestation in man. New Eng J Med 286:965–970PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Prusiner SB (1982) Novel proteinaceous infectious particles cause scrapie. Science 216(4542):136–144PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. RIA Novosti (2012) Ukraine brings back naval killer dolphins. Accessed 19 May 2014
  24. Roberge LF (2013) Analysis of introduced species as a form of biological weapon: part 1—theory and approaches. Biosafety 2:107Google Scholar
  25. Rotz LD, Khan AS, Lillibridge SR, Ostroff SM, Hughes JM (2002) Public health assessment of potential biological terrorism agents. Emerg Infect Dis 8:225–230PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rózsa L (2000) Spite, xenophobia, and collaboration between hosts and parasites. Oikos 91:396–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rózsa L (2009) The motivation for biological aggression is an inherent and common aspect of the human behavioural repertoire. Med Hypotheses 72:217–219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Scott-Ham M, Burton FC (2005) Toxicological findings in cases of alleged drug-facilitated sexual assault in the United Kingdom over a 3-year period. J Clin Forensic Med 12(4):175–186PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Strelkauskas AJ, Strelkauskas J, Moszyk-Strelkauskas D (2010) Microbiology: a clinical approach. Garland Science, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Tucker JB (2012) Innovation, dual use, and security: managing the risks of emerging biological and chemical technologies. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  31. United Nations (1972) Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and on their destruction. Accessed 5 May 2014
  32. United Nations (1992) Convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction. Accessed 19 May 2014
  33. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (2003) Biodefense research agenda for category B and C priority pathogens. NIH Publication No. 03-53152003. Accessed 19 May 2014
  34. van Courtland Moon JE (2006) The US biological weapons program. In: Wheelis M, Rozsa L, Dando M (eds) Deadly cultures: biological weapons since 1945. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, pp 9–46Google Scholar
  35. Wheelis ML (1998) First shots fired in biological warfare. Nature 395(6695):213PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wheelis M, Sugishima M (2006) Terrorist use of biological weapons. In: Wheelis M, Rozsa L, Dando M (eds) Deadly cultures: biological weapons since 1945. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp 284–303Google Scholar
  37. Whitby SM (2002) Biological warfare against crops. Palgrave, HampshireGoogle Scholar
  38. Zierler D (2011) The invention of ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the scientists who changed the way we think about the environment. University of Georgia Press, AthensGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MTA-ELTE-MTM Ecology Research GroupBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human BiologyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary

Personalised recommendations