However, in recent years matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry MALDI-TOF MS has emerged as a potential tool for microbial identification and diagnosis. The process is rapid, sensitive, and economical in terms of both labor and costs involved. The technology has been readily imbibed by microbiologists who have reported usage of MALDI-TOF MS for a number of purposes like, microbial identification and strain typing, epidemiological studies, detection of biological warfare agents, detection of water- and food-borne pathogens, detection of antibiotic resistance and detection of blood and urinary tract pathogens etc. This review provides an overview of the status and recent applications of mass spectrometry for microbial identification. It also explores the usefulness of this exciting new technology for diagnosis of diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

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Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization. New York: Columbia University Press, This looming specter had dual potential forms: a weapon of mass destruction WMD in a large-scale war, or small-scale terrorist attacks against an ill- prepared civilian population. For assorted reasons too complex to discuss here, both types were, for the most part, targeted at industrial countries, particularly the United States.

At the close of the twentieth century, there was a slow and steady increase in the number and range of publications relating to bio-warfare, pathogens and terrorism. Events such as the First Gulf War and the nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system appeared to suggest a terrifying bioterrorist endemic narrowly averted. The general consensus amongst the authors of these new publications, and amongst experts in the field, was that a major bioterrorist attack would occur presently, and furthermore, biological warfare would be a major characteristic of the new century.

This threat received much attention in various media, including a growing number of academic publications in the crossover genre of biological pathogens and terrorism. Such academic works often took different approaches: some volumes studied the history of biological pathogens; others examined the future use of biological agents in terrorism.

Agents of Bioterrorism combines these two structures of scholarship in a novel fashion. Such an approach sets new and increasingly high standards of scholarly publication, even if it is, on occasion, overly ambitious and unsuccessful. His structural approach is, thus, one brief introductory chapter on "Terrorism and Fear: How to Cope," followed by twelve chapters focusing on individual viruses and bacteria.

Chapters are further divided into sub-sections of history, molecular biology, pathology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, weaponization and defenses. A major asset of these chapters is the diversity of approach and fresh writing style of the impressive graduate student authors; however, this is hampered by the rigidity of the overall chapter structure.

The spread and distribution of a disease is discussed effectively in terms of human physiology and biology, and genetic structure; but it is rarely discussed in terms of geographical or population dissemination, thereby missing an opportunity to make an obvious and important link with bioterrorism. In addition, an over-emphasis on molecular biology makes for difficult reading if the reader is unfamiliar with the language, syntax and structure of this subject. An extensive but overly scientific glossary does not lend assistance in the basic comprehension of fundamental concepts and definitions.

Despite the quotation on the rear cover, this publication is not easily accessible to "students, policymakers, scientists, and the general public. In the preface, the editor provides a brief introduction to the range and scope of the publication and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC classification system for pathogens, and relates bioterrorism to the post-September 11 world. Zubay asserts strongly, "One good thing that has come out of all this concern [in relation to bioterrorism] is an awakening to the realization that research on infectious diseases has fallen behind the needs of a burgeoning population and a world in which globalization has eliminated boundaries that once appeared to limit the spread of pestilence" p.

In the first chapter, the editor provides an overall introduction to bioterrorism, discussing the difficulty of using certain biological pathogens for terrorism, reasoning that their use requires training, they are sometimes slow to disseminate and take effect, and are minor in comparison to naturally occurring diseases, infections and pathogens.

With such an interesting and provocative point to discuss, it is unfortunate that it is not examined in any subsequent chapters. Zubay also argues against the censorship of bioterrorist-related research and material in a somewhat naive and simplistic fashion: "I believe that good scientists far outnumber scientists with evil intentions, and that by and large good scientists are smarter" p. A major influence on the success of any academic anthology is the standard of individual authors.

It is a rare and treasured volume that maintains a consistently high standard of authorship and, unfortunately, this publication falls somewhat short of this demanding criteria. However, it must be said that a number of central chapters did succeed on their own terms and as an effective contribution to the volume as a whole.

One author, Rian Balfour, must be highly commended for two extremely successful chapters that provide backbone and a core basis to this book.

This chapter concisely introduces the pathogen in terms of overall history and historical use in biowarfare. It also makes effective use of data tables and diagrams in the molecular biology section--sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words!

He argues "the characteristics of the virus do indeed render it a likely, but highly ignored, germ weapon threat. A pathogen that kills more people than the human immuno-deficiency virus HIV , claimed the lives of 40 million people in less than two years, and routinely mutates into highly lethal forms should be considered a potential bioweapon" p.

Balfour also produces an excellent historical overview and discusses weaponization in a highly engaging fashion.

In addition, this chapter has a longer and more detailed section on weaponization with an engaging emphasis on practical aspects, including casualty estimates. It further categorizes and approaches weaponization from all angles, including casualty estimates, infectivity and decay rates, assorted uses, and genetic engineering; in addition, defenses are discussed in relation to biowarfare.

In his discussion of anthrax, Mehta opens with an absorbing introduction and risk assessment of the pathogen. Mehta continues this standard of excellence with a six-page discussion of anthrax as a biological weapon from World War I up to the events of September , and an eleven- page discussion of weaponization.

This is a key chapter, with an interesting range of arguments and details. This section also analyzes the rising role of the government and newly established medical practices in preventing biological epidemics, stating: "Plague was a punishment for the failure of the government to uphold its fundamental duty, as established with the Black Death, to protect its subject from disease" p. Agents of Bioterrorism is a detailed, comprehensive and, for the most part, engaging publication that contains one major flaw: bioterrorism, the key topic and subject, is lacking in significant emphasis and inclusion in most chapters.

Bioterrorism-related sections of individual chapters, i. For the most part they read as if tagged on to the chapter end in place of a meaningful conclusion, and with little connection to the previous content. In addition, the readability of this volume is further hindered by the over-emphasis on quantity of information over quality of analysis and context, and by the repetition and sameness across certain chapters. Furthermore, this publication is let down by the standard of its four appendices entitled "Drug Discovery and Biodefence," "The Search for Vaccines," "Personal Biodefences" and "Information Resources on Bioterrorism.

Finally, as with all multiple-author publications, this volume suffers from assorted levels and standards of writing and narration--some chapters work better than others.

In overall terms, though, this publication does have some successes and some of the individual contributors have interesting things to say; unfortunately, it fails to realize its full potential and promise. Review of Zubay, Geoffrey, ed. H-War, H-Net Reviews. August, For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks mail. Related Papers.


Agents of Bioterrorism

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Agents of bioterrorism : pathogens and their weaponization

Product Details Annotation Of late, bioterrorism has been a subject of great concern and some misunderstanding. With these fears and uncertainties in mind, the authors in Agents of Bioterrorism offer a clear and thorough account of the threats posed by bioterrorism and how to prepare for and respond to an attack. The contributors consider thirteen disease-causing agents, including those responsible for anthrax, encephalitis, botulism, ebola, tularemia, salmonella, the plague, smallpox, influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS. Each chapter considers a particular pathogen from the standpoint of its history, molecular biology, pathology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, weaponization, and defenses. Four appendices cover rapid drug discovery, strategies for making vaccines, protection of the population in a bioterror attack, and sources of information on bioterrorism.

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