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Urgent action is needed to defend against man-made viruses that are 'easy to develop' and could wipe out tens of millions of people.
That's the terrifying warning made by scientists to the Pentagon in a major report created for the US Department of Defence.
Scientists - Advances - Biology - Terrorists - Weapons
In it, scientists claim that rapid advances in biology are making it easier for terrorists to develop biological weapons by engineering microbes.
They say that there are three main scenarios that governments must prepare for to safeguard their citizens.
Prospect - Viruses - Scratch - Bacteria - Microbes
These include the prospect of recreating viruses from scratch, tweaking bacteria so that they are more dangerous, and tweaking microbes so they manufacture toxins.
Although malicious applications of this synthetic biology might not seem plausible now, they will become achievable in the future, the Pentagon was told.
Biology - Field - Technologies - Engineering - Organisms
Synthetic biology, a field that creates technologies for engineering and creating organisms, is being used for a variety of purposes.
The report looked at the ways in which biotechnology could be abused.
Viruses - Scratch - Millions - People
Viruses could be created from scratch to infect millions of people.
Fairly simple procedures can be used to modify the genes of bacteria that would make them resistant to antibiotics, the report found.
This would potentially make people who got infected incurable.
A more advanced bioweapon might come in the shape of a genetically-altered microbe that lives in the gut produces poisons.
Biology - Michael - Imperiale - Professor - Microbiology
'In and of itself, synthetic biology is not harmful', said Michael Imperiale, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan and chair of the committee that conducted the study.
'The level of concern depends on the specific applications or capabilities that it may enable,' he said.
Applications - Diseases - Yields - Effects - Pollution
Applications include treating diseases, improving agricultural yields and dealing with the negative effects of pollution.
However, the technology also poses many harmful uses that could obliterate billions of people.
Government - Attention - Progressing
'The US government should pay close attention to this rapidly progressing...
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