The Biosecurity Threat Posed by Biological Toxins
Biological toxins are highly diverse and produced in nature by a wide variety of organisms. A number of key features favor the potential threat of these biotoxins as bioterror agents, including their high potency, the relatively long latency period before symptoms are manifested, the difficulty in detecting or diagnosing their presence and identity, and their relative ease in production and stability in the environment. All of these features also create major challenges in developing tools and reagents to combat toxin-mediated diseases. So far, there have been a limited number of toxins that have drawn attention for potential use as bioterror agents, but there are many more naturally occurring toxins that have been isolated, purified, and characterized, as well as cloned and modified to make different recombinant variants. Current treatments for toxin exposure are limited to vaccination or passive immunization with antibodies; however, there are no postexposure therapies available after symptoms have manifested. A vigilant and robust biotoxin research community must be mobilized to not only better characterize the existing biotoxins but also to anticipate new variants or entirely new biotoxins that might arise and to develop appropriate antitoxin countermeasures. In addition, a definitive roadmap must also be formulated for safe, documented, and controlled handling of biotoxins during basic research and during development of toxin-based therapeutics for biomedical applications.
KeywordsBotulinum Neurotoxin Protein Toxin Wound Botulism Infant Botulism Biological Toxin
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