Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A Selective View of Toxins in Weapons and Medicine.

  • Barbara B. Saunders-Price
Living reference work entry


A look at the past and a look at the future. What is the history of toxins used as weapons and where is the danger in the future?

Before 2001, there was recognition that biological weapons, including toxins, were weapons that required state sponsorship. But that is no longer true. As the asymmetries of weapons and politics have changed, so has the probable use of toxins as weapons. Our understanding and expectation of likely use of toxins in weapons has changed. Even the word toxin is commonly used inappropriately to mean toxic chemical rather than a chemical produced by organisms. The possibility of toxin use in weapons was evaluated on whether the toxin could be manufactured or purified from natural resources. The more complicated the toxin’s structure, the less likely it was to be purified or created using laboratory synthesis. Many infectious disease specialists regard toxins as the eventual cause of the destruction of cells in most bacterial infections.

In the spectrum of chemical and biological weapons, from the simple chemical structures of mustard and sarin to the complicated toxins, such as palytoxin, where do toxin weapons fit? Does the use of toxins as a weapon imply the use of biological weapons or, if the toxin is laboratory synthesized and purified is it a chemical weapon? Do toxin weapons need to have purified chemicals? Are toxins the ultimate dual use agents? Do toxinologists need to examine their research and publications for the potential of possible illicit use? Do restrictions on research and publication of biologically based materials, including toxins, really impede the development of weapons? How can these restrictions be implemented to guarantee security concerns?


Snake Venom Bacterial Toxin Chemical Weapon Biological Weapon Biological Warfare 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ASA Inc.KaneoheUSA

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