Terrorism threats advance bioscience again

So intimates a press release today. Protein vaccine protects mice from lethal aerosol attack with ricin toxin (from the castor plant), it says. Scientists have developed an”…experimental vaccine against ricin, a potential biological threat agent, which fully protected mice from aerosol challenge with lethal doses of the toxin. The study was performed at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). ”

When inhaled, ricin causes severe respiratory symptoms that kill within 72 hours. Ingested, it can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms that cause vascular collapse and death. It’s readily available and highly toxic–especially used as an aerosol–and could be a significant agent of biological warfare or terrorism. No vaccine or therapy is currently available for human use.

Saw a not-so-outrageously-imaginative movie tonight about how science can implant control devices into human brains (The Manchurian Candidate with Denzel Washington). The potential for good and evil is what makes bioscience so compelling a topic for most of us.