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Research into “biowarfare” diseases

13 November, 2009  

A $4 million (£2.4 million) federal grant has been given to researchers in the US for the development of antibiotics to tackle plague, anthrax and tularemia.

The US is keen to develop defences against the diseases, due to fears terrorists may choose to use the “category-A” agents in bioterrorism and biowarfare. The naturally occurring bacteria pose a major threat to the public and could be easily transmitted, resulting in a high death toll, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe.

None of the current antibiotics are considered to be ideal to fight the diseases and there are concerns that terrorists may develop a multi-drug resistant strain for all three diseases to cause maximum damage to the public.

Professor and director of the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Michael Johnson, said: “Our goal is to develop an advanced series of broad-spectrum antibacterial ‘lead’ compounds that are safe, efficacious and that can be taken orally.”

Anthrax can be potentially fatal if the disease is left untreated, while tulameria, or rabbit fever, has a relatively low fatality rate, but can be incapacitating. The CDC believe that 14% of plague cases are fatal in the US.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention