Arguably the largest obstacle to bioterrorism at the moment is simply insufficient technological advancement. There is already easily accessible information and products.
Any person or lab could just get the regents and other necessary ingredients/equipment simply from buying them from an online catalog. And CRISPR/Cas9 is not a difficult tool to utilize.
It may not be entirely feasible for one person to single-handedly commit a biological attack easily.
However, that is changing at a blinding pace.
Because of CRISPR and the advancements it will continue to bring.
The risk of these “no return address” bioweapons are large. Who will develop it and effectively administer it first? A lone wolf? A rogue team? A country?
It’s not even really a matter of “if”, just when. The key to ourselves and our abilities are built into our DNA. Unlocking that key is beautiful… and dangerous. Someone, somehow, will find a way to target it at some point.
The main issue is how fast that risk appears to be approaching.
Consider this: nuclear weapons can be kept under constant observation. It takes nations months to produce nuclear weapons. They need kits of rare and easily traceable materials. They need massive machines, shops, special centrifuges, etc.
For a bioweapon? All you need is a lab and the right knowledge.
The tech to make a nuclear weapon or chemical weapon is hard to come by. But the tech to make a bioweapon lay imminently available in any college lab or a company’s biotech lab. Hell, you can buy CRISPR online and build your own lab for under $500 relatively easily.
No one can stop this rapid pace of technological advancement or information spread. Not the intelligence community, and damn well not the governments of the world.
No disease is even required to utilize at this point. With the CRISPR sequence-specific targeting a lab expert can cut out genes directly. They become God. The final expression – the on, off switch.
This revelation appeared out of nowhere relatively recently. Since then, we’ve had over 50 new advancements using the same tech. It’s only increasing from here.
Blink once, you’ll miss the next upgrade. It’s insane.
CRISPR is on track and studies have already demonstrated in research labs that it could target single gene-deletion. Such as a gene necessary for carrying oxygen in the blood, or lessening its availability.
Or, delete a gene essential for the nerve system.
Or a gene modification that rapidly increases brain deterioration.
The options are limitless.
The only question left? How to spread. Which is where new advancements come into play, and make this a worldwide-universal issue.
One fell swoop with the new tech once it reaches peak ability could turn an enemy into an early-onset Alzheimer’s disease victim or strip them to be unable to reproduce.
And between me initially writing this article and before I posted it, there was a new advancement in the field. Scientists uncovered a new Cas9 enzyme to use with CRISPR (as it needs a specific sequence to flank the target location on the genome to recognize the site). The most common one, Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9), has just been upgraded. They found that Streptococcus canis (ScCas9) is nearly identical to SpCas9 but can target DNA sequences that the latter cannot.
Making it even easier to make specific targets.
You don’t even need to have a mass murderer at the helm of this. Simply make a large segment of an enemy female population unable to reproduce and mission accomplished. Didn’t kill a soul, but accomplished the task. A generation gone before a cure could (maybe) be found. There are thousands of similar examples.
The advancement in tech and rapid pace of development is too tempting to rule out mischief. It’s coming fast without oversight.
The only real question is who will shoot first, how big of an impact it will have, and if we’ll have enough time to get proper systems in place after the “first awakening”. Hopefully it will open the eyes of enough people to prepare in time to prevent a full-fledged biological holocaust.
The threat of nuclear warfare was innate in the minds of many during the Cold War. But it’s not the biggest threat anymore.
Now the biggest threat is hidden inside our own genome. And the advancements in the field are showing a sheep surrounded by wolves with no herder in sight.