Biotoxins and poisons
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Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 14:54:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: Daniel M Harms

On Fri, 26 Jun 1998, Rob Shankly wrote:

On a quieter note, an airgun dart could be coated with tetrodotoxin (from poisonous octopi or an anaesthesiologist) which stops the victim's lungs from working puff puff puff.

I believe you mean tetrodoxin here. It's a paralytic poison found in pufferfish of different varieties. In Japan, people eat fugu, a dish made from pufferfish, because they enjoy the numbing of the skin that goes along with it, and every year people die because a chef, despite his training, makes a bad batch.

What makes tetrodoxin even more interesting for CoC investigators is the fact that it doesn't always kill the victim. In many cases, it induces a coma that is virtually indistinguishable from death. In Haiti, the substance is used in Voudou rites of zombi creation. According to Wade Davis, author of _The Serpent and the Rainbow_, the priest throws the powder across the victim's path in a small enough dose to make its effects temporary. After the person "dies", the doctor digs him up and uses other drugs to put him to work. There's been some dispute as to whether this would administer the drug effectively, however.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 08:54:16 +0900
From: "David Farnell"

Hey, it tastes good! (and no, it tastes nothing like chicken) Actually, I've eaten it a few times (rich students who take me out to eat now and then), and I've never noticed any numbness, tingling, etc. I think that if you DO notice that, it's "Sayonara, sucker." The number of deaths is quite small, certainly less than the number of deaths from Burger-meister Hamburgers (infected with some nasty bacillus) every year. I don't really think people eat it for that enjoyable (?) numb feeling — I mean, it's pretty easy to get numb in Japan (beer cans the size of newborn babies in vending machines on every corner). People eat it because it tastes good, and in Japan, people will eat about anything edible that grows in and around the islands. (It's real fun to go to aquariums with Japanese people — they look at the fish and say "Oishii so!" (Looks tasty!)—I kid you not.)

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 12:28:11 +0900
From: Jay and Mikiko Noyes

It tastes ok, but it's certainly not something I'd want to risk my life over. The Japanese I've talked to about it have always acted like it was more of a macho thing than it was about flavour. As I understand it, you can get the numbness and tingling (a.k.a. peripheral neuropathy, I think) from trace doses of toxin in the flesh.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 15:38:53 -0400
From: Graeme Price

As I recall, the chef needs to be licensed to prepare such a dish. The toxin is found in the liver, skin and ovaries of the puffer fish (family Tetraodontoidea) and in the California newt (Taricha torosa). Clinical signs of poisoning from tetrodotoxin include tingling of the lips and tongue, motor in co-ordination, numbness of the skin, salivation, muscle weakness, generalised paralysis and death. And people eat this stuff willingly! I always knew the Japanese were an odd bunch!

In Haiti, the substance is used in Voudou rites of zombi creation.

Yes, I've wondered about this too. The zombie thing is a little bit tenuous (personal opinion) but good for a plot device… or as a scientific rationale when filling in the report forms.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 12:49:46 -0700
From: Phil A Posehn

Actually, if I remember correctly, there is a pronounced euphoric effect from the VERY small dosage found in properly prepared Fugu.

I believe that the reason that the Zombie dust was effective when administered in this fashion was because one of the other ingredients was ground nettles or a similar irritant and abrasive. This allowed the toxin to reach the bloodstream through nearly microscopic cuts in the skin when the barefoot victim walked over the powder.

Alternatively, the powder would be blown into the victim's face, entering the mucous membranes of the eyes and sinuses.

The poor victim would experience total paralysis of the voluntary muscles along with sufficiently depressed heartbeat and respiration to ensure that he would be pronounced dead without electronic monitoring devices. The victim would be totally aware of the entire process, including his own burial! When the drug wore off the Tonton Macoutes would dig him up and feed him a variety of Datura Stramonium(sp?), a potent Hallucinogenic, show him a sealed jar into which they would tell him they had placed his soul, and put him to work as a slave!

The Haitian secret police make Nyarlathotep seem like a nice guy by comparison.

Date:Fri, 26 Jun 1998 23:05:03 +1000
From: Rob Shankly

<climbs on high horse>


*Tetrodatoxin or *tetrodtoxin, according to "Human Physiology", Shmidt & Thews (Springer-Verlag, 1983)

<climbs off high horse, noting that pharmacology was a subject he stayed awake for>

I used the stuff extensively to do measurements of sodium channel density on bits of animal, back when I studied pharmacology. In Australia the main reason to encounter this poison is through being stung by a rather small, sweet looking octopus with tabby blue rings. It likes to live in rockpools. It's so sweet and small you don't always feel it sting. Recommended first aid is mouth-to-mouth until an ambulance arrives, since the poison stops the victim breathing. Tetrodotoxin interferes with cell membranes, particularly the interface between nerves and muscle: the heart is "self starting" and does not need nerve impulses to beat, so it keeps going, but the lungs need the nervous system to tell them to work. Since they work all the time they are the first area affected- the patient gets drowsy, lies down, turns blue…

In Haiti, the substance is used in Voudou rites of zombi creation

I have always wondered about the "zombie" drugs, since tetrodatoxin would be very hard to use if you wanted a living victim- I think that most "patients" would o/d. I have also read of zombie creation using mescaline and similar "magic mushrooms", and ergotised grass seeds (ie LSD).

For a modern, high tech knockout with very low chances of a fatality, try rohipnol + alchohol (aka "Rollies"). Tasteless, colourless, fast as hell and quite easy to aquire. Young women in nightclubs be warned. For Keepers, the advantage of using something like this is that players may well have heard of the drug; introducing grimey, banal evil highlights the pus-covered horrors when _they_ arrive.

From: Agent Eduard

Ah Yes! Wade Davis!

The David Suzuki of Ethno-Botany!

It's been awhile since I read "Serpent and the Rainbow", or the more, ahem, academic papers on the subject of zombification; however, I seem to remember that the toxin used in zombification is *not* in fact tetrodotoxin, but a related toxin derived from local amphibians (frogs, I thought). I'll try and remember to double-check tonight.

At any rate, Wade's come under fire, I believe, from critics claiming that a lot of the more outrageous "events" depicted in S&R were dramatised. I believe that some anthros have remarked that Wade's a little susceptible to the 'winking native' phenomenon (Look! Here comes the guy with the cigarettes again! Let's tell him some more tales our own grandmothers wouldn't believe, and afterwards we can all have a good laugh about it over our beers…

Still, if I'm mistaken (my memory ain't what it used to be), and someone else knows better, feel free to rebutt (as always)!

And Graeme, I'm surprised at you being surprised that the Japanese (and others) ingest Tetrodotoxin for fun! After all, how many people the world over ingest Nicotine for fun?

I was just thinking that a little pure nicotine dabbed on yer air-dart would do the job very nicely thank-you. Wouldn't even have to pierce too deeply into the skin either, would it? Isn't nicotine one of those lovely toxins that's absorbable through the skin?

Yep, the means for application of the poison are accurately relayed here (at least as far as Davis' S&R relates).

And for those of you wondering about the "soul in a jar" thing, the Haitian religion involves a rather complex belief about transmigration of souls. Telling someone, under the influence of HEAVY dope, that you've caught their soul in a bottle, or the like, in Haiti is probably roughly equivalent to doping up a good baptist, painting the walls orange and red, painting yourself red, and then giving him a good rant of fire and brimstone for an hour or so…

For those interested, Mayfair's CHILL game, and Steve Jackson's GURPS both have produced supplements that give a "gamer's eye view" of Voudoun, although I'm not sure how detailed it is.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 14:21:42 -0400
From: Graeme Price

Ah Yes! Wade Davis!

It's no so much the credibility of his sources that worries me as the actual pharmacology of the process. The type of accuracy as far as dose required to induce the temporary paralysis and coma-like symptoms would be difficult for a scientifically trained toxicologist to work out. Couple this with the proposed route of administration (through the skin) and I would be surprised that it would ever work as described (let alone do so even semi-reliably!).

And Graeme, I'm surprised at you being surprised that the Japanese (and others) ingest Tetrodotoxin for fun! After all, how many people the world over ingest Nicotine for fun?

Fair comment. But this applies not just to nicotine, but alcohol and numerous other, er… "recreational chemicals" as well. However note that nicotine (whilst toxic in pure form) isn't quite as deadly as tetrodotoxin (IIRC) in the doses likely to be absorbed by typical consumers: eating badly prepared puffer fish will kill you quickly, but you would have to smoke a hell of a lot of cigarettes for nictotine to kill you in the short term. The long term damage from smoking (as I understand it) is due to the carcinogenic compounds in smoke rather than chronic nicotine toxicity (i.e you get lung cancer, not nicotine poisoning).

I was just thinking that a little pure nicotine dabbed on yer air-dart would do the job very nicely thank-you. Wouldn't even have to pierce too deeply into the skin either, would it? Isn't nicotine one of those lovely toxins that's absorbable through the skin?

Death by nicotine patch? Wasn't that in a Ben Elton novel a couple of years back? Nice way to carry out a hit on someone who smokes a lot! Forensics could pick it up though - they just might not believe it.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 14:59:40 -0400
From: "R. Menzi"

Actually, nicotine overdose can occur. I believe that the constriction of capillaries inhibits or blocks circulation, potentially resulting in dizziness, nausea, fainting spells, coma (defined as the inability to be roused; lots of things cause coma), and/or heart failure/attack.

Death by nicotine patch?

This was a point of news interest when the nicotine patches first came out; people wouldn't stop smoking while they were getting their transdermal fix and a few heavy smokers ended up dying of a nicotine O.D.

Other long term side effects of the nicotine in cigarettes include deafness (from extended lack of proper circulation to the working bits of the ears) and other chronic circulatory problems.

But hey, it makes you look cool, and looking cool is what matters, right? Well, old age isn't what your usual agent seems to worry about overmuch. Looking cool, on the other hand, plays a nice part in keeping a decent self-image while your betraying the laws and system you swore to uphold, even if it is for the greater good.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 17:48:53 -0700
From: "Gerry Mckelvey"

Anyone know more about the effects of Anthrax on people, you hear alot about how its not nice but what are the symptoms / results of infection. Some unlucky PCs are in for a shock ;-)

other than the fact that it really ruins you're day…I can't say much on the subject…but it's not as nasty as some of the hemmoragic stuff like ebola. Well, I guess that's a relative opinion…*none* of those diseases are very pleasant, I would think…However, having all you're internal organs liquefy over a period of a few days doesn't sound like a fun way to pass the time….I rather just have a beer….

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 13:16:20 +0200
From: Andrew Sturman

I've always been particularly curious about some of the non-lethal agents reported in the US stockpile, specifically BZ, a hallucinogenic gas I believe. Any info on form, effects and duration would be most useful. DG could either use it as a weapon, or as an excuse to explain away some of the weirder witnessed events. I'd also be interested in other non-lethal agents, chemical or biological. Please post away.

And while I'm on the subject of non-lethal, did anyone catch that magazine article a few months back, in US News I think, on other non-lethal weaponry. It went from stick or slick riot foams, laser dazzlers and air tasers to emp pulse bombs, RF/microwave, infrasound/sonic and weird shockwave vortex weapons. All excellent super-tech devices for DG and the opposition, to go with their PMWI scanners, ground-penetrating radar, portable SQUID's and other goodies. I've put simulation stats to several of them if anyone's interested.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 11:56:22 -0700
From: Phil A Posehn

All that I can really recall about BZ is that it was developed in the late '60-early '70s for domestic use against anti-war demonstrators but public outcry prohibited its use. There was also a tank-like device developed about the same time and with the same proposed purpose that featured a high powered ultra-sonic generator as its means of incapacitation. I believe this one was eventually sold to some foreign governments.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 13:47:07 -0700
From: Phil A Posehn

I remember a mystery novel written during the 30s where a man was murdered by means of a cork ball in which several needles smeared with concentrated nicotine had been imbedded. The concentrate had been prepared by boiling a pound or so of tobacco and then straining the liquid and boiling it down to a brown goo.

Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 11:45:50 -0400
From: Viktor Haag

I believe that one of the murders in "Death of a Dentist" (one of MC Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series) is perpetrated by Nicotine poisoning, IIRC. One of the suspects was a local moonshiner, since Macbeth mused that a person could have manufactured pure nicotine by using tobacco as the "mash" in his still, or something like that.

Incidentally, alot of the south-western Pueblo cultures (and other American aboriginal cultures, I think) used Nicotine as a ritual substance because in really small doses it induces a death-like trance.

Also useful is the stuff the South American Yanomamo use to induce hallucinatory trances by force-injecting it up people's noses (yecchh) — can't remember what chemical that was, though…

Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 14:40:05 -0400
From: "R. Menzi"

Also useful is the stuff the South American Yanomamo use to induce hallucinatory trances by force-injecting it up people's noses (yecchh) — can't remember what chemical that was, though… «<

Hey, I saw that discovery channel special too! You can get a lot of ideas from those things, like an amazon tribe that helps/resists the Mi-Go who mine their land in the mountains, or other such nonsense.

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 11:12:27 +0900
From: "David Farnell"

Also useful is the stuff the South American Yanomamo use to induce hallucinatory trances by force-injecting it up people's noses (yecchh) — can't remember what chemical that was, though…

Maybe datura? Or was it yage? (Or do you drink yage? Oh, where's William Burroughs when you need him?)

I remember from an anthropology class that some South American tribes would take tobacco enemas to get trance-visions. Wild tobacco is apparently very much higher in various active chemicals than domestic, so I don't know if they boiled it down or just stuck a pinch between their cheek and, uh, other cheek.

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 00:04:24 -0400
From: Daniel Harms

(Goes to bookshelf)

"The most widely distributed source of drugs is the yakowana tree, whose soft moist inner bark is dried and ground into a powder… the more desirable hallucinogen is from the hisiomo tree, whose tiny, lentil-sized seeds are painstakingly skinned and packed into 10- or 15-inch-long cylinder-shaped wads and traded over a wide area… The Yanomamo cultivate a variety of small bushes of the genus justicia and snuff these, but they are less potent and less desirable than the other two…"

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 17:38:59 -0500
From: "Charles Baucum Jr."

In G Gordon Liddy's autobiography, _Will_, he notes that the only weapon carried on the Watergate break-in was a Walther air pistol. They used it to shoot out the streetlight over the door that they had prepped for the entry. They carried air gun darts dipped in nicotine extract, then available in drugstores over the counter. It was supposed to induce a heart attack in the target should they be surprised.

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 18:56:19 -1000
From: Til Eulenspiegel

I've no information on BZ handy, but do know two sources you might check. First is the Merck Index. This chemical reference work is available at most college libraries, and could be found at better public libraries. I looked up BZ gas therein six or seven years ago, but don't remember much of what I read. Second is the out-of-print RPG "The Morrow Project." One of its weapons was a U.S. military hand grenade with pressurised BZ gas inside. As I remember it, the last paragraph mentioned you could unscrew the grenade's fuse and spray the contents in someone's face.

On other non-lethal weaponry.

As a matter of fact, that very article entered my files. Another good source for general black project information is Aviation Week magazine. For instance, a 1993 article claimed U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and Central Intelligence Agency all approached the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the siege at Waco for permission to field-test non-lethal weapons! The article went on to describe what each organisation wanted to test. (Described devices were a subset of those listed in USN&WR.)

Seven or eight months ago Aviation Week published a brief piece about black weaponry projects in Persian Gulf War. It was sketchy, but supposedly field commanders were approached by "Men in Black" claiming to be from US intelligence and/or research agencies. Dialogue between these MiBs and Coalition leaders went like this:

MiB: General, I have a device that will win this battle for you.

General: Great! What is it?

MiB: I can't tell you.

General: Okay, what's it do?

MiB: I can't tell you.

General: Okay…how do we deploy it? What kind of range, area of effect, military use and so on? How do I support it?

MiB: I can't tell you.

General: What can you tell me?

MiB: I've already said all I can.

Aviation Week claimed this happened to several Coalition field commanders.

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 11:19:33 -0400
From: Graeme Price

Could also try the following URLs I stumbled across:

Both of which are US army resources on nuclear, biological and chemical warfare - including links to field manuals etc. Most good organic chemistry textbooks will also have plenty of interesting data (but you may need to dig somewhat - and know what you are looking for: they can be pretty impenetrable)

Rumors of Coalition chemical weapon attacks in the Gulf War?

Nothing substantial. Did hear (from someone who would know: have to keep my sources confidential) that Kate Adie's perfume set off the British chemical detection sensors though… but maybe this was just a cunning joke (I mean Kate Adie wearing perfume? Really!).

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 22:35:11 -0400 (EDT)
From: Jonathan P Keim

The BZ entry in the Merck Index (11th edition, entry 8110 "3-Quinuclidinol") is rather brief. In addition to the citations for synthetic and analytical procedures and some physical properties, it simply reports use as an incapacitating chemical warfare agent. (specifically the benzilate form).

Additionally it mentions therapeutic use as a hypotensive and a cholinergic. (what might that mean you ask? And I reply "good question!") Actually the good old OED labels them as "tending to lower blood pressure" and "stimulating the release of acetylcholine" respectively.

Also, there is a citation for the CW effects : Health Aspects of Chemical and Biological Weapons (WHO, Geneva, 1970) pp.49-51.

BZ is also a Schedule 2 chemical under the CWC.

The Merck is an excellent resource, especially if you have access to a good library and can check out the references found under the specific entries. It has a decidedly drug bend on its contents, but also includes chemical data on a number of explosives as well. I believe the Merck Manual (which can run about $20) also would be a good source for a variety of medical/biochemical questions (though I haven't looked at one in a while, mayhaps someone can give a review with some substance).

I've recently started developing a organophosphorous nerve agent sensor, and have gotten my first little bottle of our analogue, a delightful little pesticide called phorate. Imagine my delight when the MSDS informed me the 2 grams in the bottle were sufficient to kill about 500 people. I've noticed people are giving me a lot more space in the lab recently… ;-)

Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 21:53:15 EDT
From: Thomas Woodall

I promised I would get my brother to send some information on requested chemical and biological agents. This is a list of nonlethal Bio/Chem agents DG agents can either encounter or use in adventures. Hope you enjoy it and come up with all kinds of nasty ideas for your poor little agents. A list of lethal Bio/Chem agents will follow in the near future. The list follows my signature.

Nonlethal Chemical

BZ - also known as Benactyzine, crystalline solid at normal temperatures, stable enough to be disseminated as a gas from a pyrotechnic device. Once in the body, BZ affects the central nervous system, causing dry and flushed skin, abnormally rapid heartbeat, urinary retention, constipation, slowing of mental and physical activity, headache, giddiness, delusions, hallucinations, drowsiness, and sometimes maniacal behaviour, also an increase in body temp.

These symptoms may persist for several days. They also may vary widely from individual to individual.

DM- also known as adamsite or diphenylaminochloroarsine. Solid which is vaporized in the field to produce a gas. Rate of action is rapid, in 1 minute the victim will usually be incapacitated. Symptoms include irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes, viscous discharge from nose, sneezing, coughing, severe headache, pain in the chest, nausea and then vomiting. Symptoms generally last 30 min or so after removal from gas cloud. Agent disseminates rapidly. Indoors DM can reach lethal concentrations, so it is best used outside.

CN- Choloracetophenone. An early tear gas. Fragrant smell, causes uncontrollable lacrymation and in higher concentrations can cause burning and itching of the skin, including blisters, but these often disappear in a few hours. Not as effective as CS but still used. Disseminates rapidly.

CS- O-chlorobenzalmalononitrile. Tear gas. White crystalline powder. Highly irritating, incapacitation occuring in 20-60 seconds after exposure, lasting 5-10 minutes after removal to fresh air. Victims are incapable of effective concerted action. Effects include extreme burning of the eyes, copious flow of tears, coughing, difficulty in breathing, chest tightness, involuntary closing of the eyes, running nose, dizziness. Heavy concentrations also cause vomiting. CS has now replaces CN and DM in most cases.

Nonlethal Biological

Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis - VEE for short. Viral disease. Naturally occurs in C. America and S. America. Transmitted by mosquitoes, especially Mansonia (Mansonia) titillans, but can be contracted by aerosol inhalation. Usually a very mild disease with <1% mortality rate, inducing varied symptoms including mostly flu-like illness, sometimes with mild neurological symptoms but not severe as in cases of EEE or St. Louis Encephalitis.

Q Fever - also known as nine mile fever, Queensland fever. Rickettsial disease (organism with both bacteria and virus-like properties) Transmitted by inhalation of dust or aerosol, or ingestion of contaminated raw mild. Ticks transmit the disease to animal vectors. Causes mild cough and chest pains, general malaise for several days. Its onset is rapid; acute fever, headache, shills, weakness, and heavy perspiration. The disease is self limiting and not fatal.

Tularemia- also known as Rabbit Fever. So-called "non-lethal" disease, this bacterial illness is usually less than 5% fatal, but can be fulminating and highly dangerous, with a mortality as high as 60%. It is certainly a risky addition to any nonlethal agent list. The disease causes very sudden chills, high fever, prostration, and pneumonia. Untreated it can be lethal, especially if it fulminates, resulting in massive blood poisoning. It can also go chronic, causing enlargement of lymph glands. It is usually successfully treated by streptomycin, aureomycin, and chloromycetin antibiotics. Tularemia is transmitted by contact of bare skin with infected blood of rabbits, or by deer fly bite. (personal note: my uncle very nearly died of this disease in the early 1970's after contracting it from a rabbit he skinned)

Dengue Fever- also known as breakbone fever. Virus transmitted generally by bite of Aedes aegypti and some other Aedes mosquitoes. NOTE: not to be confused with its potentially lethal brother, dengue hemorragic fever, also transmitted by mosquito. Dengue produces sudden fever, chilliness, intense headache, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pains, and weakness. It renders one totally incapacitated, but is usually less than 1% fatal.

Influenza- also known as the grippe. Well - known disease, its B viral form is usually much milder than the A form, which can be a real killer, especially of the elderly and small children. This disease needs no explanation.

Psittacosis- parrot fever, ornithosis. With Tularemia, this viral disease is the most dangerous of the "nonlethal" diseases. It is transmitted by contact with infected birds or breathing dust contaminated by infected feces, urine, nasal discharges or soiled feathers. Contaminated air may travel a great distance before losing its infectivity. In very rare instances it is transmissible from man to man. Disease is usually more severe in adults than in children, who usually develop a milder pneumonia. In adults it is characterised by a severe fever, chills, anorexia, sore throat, headache, backache, constipation, great weakness, prostration, sometimes delirium (usu. a bad sign). Mortality is high for the label "non-lethal", i.e. 9-20%, usually overall 5%, with the majority of deaths being over age 30.

Note that all of these diseases can be transmitted by aerosol droplet, which makes them all possible weapons in an arsenal.

Some source material: TM3-216/AFM355-6 Military Biology and Biological Warfare Agents, Jane's NBC Protection Equipment 1992-1993, Mosquitoes of North America (1955)

Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 10:03:58 -0400
From: Graeme Price

[Nice list by the way, couple of minor gripes about the biologicals though]


Inhalation infection from VEE occurs very rarely and requires a higher dose than from mosquitoes. Vaccine available for horses (not sure if it is licensed for humans - I mean civilians, some militaries do use it I think).

Q Fever - also known as nine mile fever, Queensland fever.

The "Q" originally comes from "Query" as when it was an first observed clinically no one knew whether it was viral or bacterial. Actually it is Rickettsial (about halfway between viral and bacterial, it's wierd. Don't ask) caused by Coxiella burnettii (named after the late, great Frank McFarlane Burnett, who got the Nobel for the clonal selection hypothesis of immune development along with Sir Peter Medawar - who after recovering from a severe stoke published an excellent autobiography called "my life as a thinking radish"… but I digress).

Tularemia- also known as Rabbit Fever.

I agree. This is a nasty one. Not just restricted to rabbits though IIRC. Also a potential bioweapon.

Dengue Fever- also known as breakbone fever.

Dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) is caused by Dengue virus, but is more complex. There are 4 types of virus (called dengue, 1, dengue 2, dengue 3 and, surprisingly, dengue 4). If you get, say, dengue 2 as a kid you will have antibodies which bind all dengue viruses but don't neutralise any except dengue 2. So, if you then get dengue 4 later on, the anti-dengue 2 antibodies bind dengue 4 virus but don't kill it. Immune cells (monocytes and macrophages) eat the immune complex of virus + antibody and become infected, secreting all sorts of immune mediators (cytokines, interferons and prostaglandins) which cause shock and haemorrhagic fever. Very, very nasty. This is why there is no vaccine to dengue - you have to find a way to protect against all 4 types simultaneously, without developing antibodies. This will not be easy.

Influenza- also known as the grippe.

If you want any further info on influenza, I work on it on a day-to-day basis. Drop me a line. Note that in 1918-19 influenza killed at least 21 million people world-wide within 18 months. New strains pop up every few years (for example the H5N1 strain in Hong Kong which was causing serious concern late last year, and earlier this year).

Psittacosis- parrot fever, ornithosis.

Again, Psittacosis isn't viral, but Chlamydial (an intracellular bacterium which cannot synthesize it's own ATP and is dependent on the host cell for energy). Related strains also cause some rather nasty sexually transmitted diseases (I have another true story about swabbing for chamydial diagnosis: when I worked in the hospital the department nearly ran out of money, so we had to switch from sending out nice plastic handled swabs to cheap (really cheap) wooden handled swabs… which had a nasty tendency to leave splinters behind at the swab site. Doesn't sound too bad, except that the swab site (in men) is about 3 inches down the centre of the penis. Still, the poor patients tended to take more, erm… precautions after that!). Can be treated rather nicely by tetracycline (they use erythromycin in kids [IIRC] as tetracycline makes children's teeth go brown).

Note that all of these diseases can be transmitted by aerosol droplet, which makes them all possible weapons in an arsenal.

Except Francisella tulariensis which is tick borne and dengue virus which is mosquito borne. Aerosol transmission for these two is probably a no-no, except under ideal (and artificial) conditions.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 20:00:02 -0700
From: Phil A Posehn

On the subject of toxic ammo, my favourite lethal substance is Aniline. It's a simple amine of benzine and is found in most print shops. One drop will cause massive hallucinations in an average adult, two will kill 50%. It is even absorbed through the skin!

In regard to the teflon in glasers, I recall some years ago an interesting case where several employees of a circuit board manufacturer were hospitalised with a high fever and flu-like symptoms. The cause turned out to be that they all smoked non-filter cigarettes. The teflon dust particles that fell on the end of their cigarettes (non-filter smokers turn them around before lighting) when burned were enough to make them seriously ill!

Does the heat generated by the firing of a bullet break down the teflon enough to have a toxic effect on the person shot?

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 12:42:24 GMT0BST
From: Robert Thomas

After the posts on the subject of Glaser Safety Slugs, I started to wonder about whether it was possible to fill the slug with other substances apart from teflon or a teflon / xxxx mix. Perhaps a fast acting poison or even nastier a virulent strain of CJD, so that if someone survives the initial bullet trauma, they die slowly over a few months / years. Just a quick warped thought.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 09:29:23 -0400
From: Graeme Price

Sure theoretically could be done, but I guess liquid teflon was used for a reason (probably to ensure that the shot doesn't stick together inside the bullet). I guess you could mix it with anything you like: examples would be

Ricin (ala. Bulgarian Secret Service vs. Georgi Markov)

Cyanide (but why be boring!)

Botulinus Toxin (ouch!)

The CJD thing is probably a no no. Wouldn't get enough of an infectious dose to the nervous system (except from a head shot perhaps… but that would probably kill the target instantly anyway!). Conventional bacteria and viruses are also probably out, as the heat generated during the bullet's firing and travel would kill many/most of them (I'm guessing that: it's actually more complicated to work out than it sounds), but spores would be just fine. Anthrax or Clostridia (that's botulism or gas gangrene) would fit. Personally I would go for anthrax as Clostridia cannot grow in areas well supplied with blood or oxygen. Something similar may actually have been done in the past (in the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich by Czech partisans in WWII… I mentioned this in an earlier post, I think).

By the way, it's a very nasty suggestion Rob. There would be practically no way to remove spores whilst debrading a gunshot wound. You would just have to put your faith in antibiotics and hope!

Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 00:44:52 +1000
From: Rob Shankly

Something similar may actually have been done in the past (in the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich by Czech partisans in WWII… I mentioned this in an earlier post, I think).

In the case of Heydrich it was inadvertent. The first assassin ambushed his car but had a jammed sten-gun. As Heydrich and his driver pulled pistols to deal with the situation assassin #2 lobbed a grenade into the car. Heydrich was able to start out on foot after the attackers but was sufficiently wounded to stop. Initially doctors thought he would recover completely, but horsehair stuffing from the car-seat had been driven into the wound, and infection killed him. And a damn good thing too.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 11:19:21 -0400
From: Graeme Price

Yes, this is the most likely answer, but I have read a very interesting book about Biological weapons which quotes Paul Fildes (the head of Porton Down in WWII) as saying that he "had a hand" in Heydrich's death. Not that we will ever know either way.

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 17:20:26 GMT0BST
From: Robert Thomas

I'm assuming that he was exposed to anthrax or something similar from the horsehair.


If for the sake of argument certain people in Brazil were to gain access to the remains of the aforementioned SS officer and revive it, would the anthrax spores which are notoriously long survivors be present and how would this affect the raised individual. Infectious to others? Before anyone charges in with the argument that there are 2 separate organisms here i.e. the spores and Heydrich as he died some time after the initial attack they would have been in his bloodstream and most parts of his body I assume they would be beyond removal. Anyone know more about the effects of Anthrax on people, you hear a lot about how its not nice but what are the symptoms / results of infection. Some unlucky PCs are in for a shock ;-)

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 13:53:48 -0400
From: Graeme Price

Official cause of death for Mr. Heydrich was "septicaemia caused by bacteria and possibly by poisons carried into [vital organs] by the bomb splinters".

Anthrax is bacterial cause by Bacillus anthracis (gram +ve, spore former). Anthrax is mainly a disease of livestock (cattle, horses and sheep) humans are infected only rarely: usually via entry of spores through broken skin: inhalation into the lung is also possible, but less common (in humans this is called Woolsorter's disease). Spores germinate at the site of entry and growth of the bacteria causes a gelatinous oedema (think snotty pus) at the site of infection. The bacteria spread to the bloodstream via the lymph system and multiply in the blood and tissues. The patient then dies. There are several sort so toxin secreted by the bacilli (including oedema factor, toxic factor and protective factor: these are encoded by a plasmid [bit of extrachromosomal DNA] which can be lost or gained by the bacteria).

Typically in cutaneous anthrax there is a sore: starting as a papule which develops within 12-36 hours, later progressing to become a malignant pustule, then a necrotic pustule (huge black blisters) from which the bugs escape into the bloodstream. In inhalation anthrax, there will be lymph node swelling, sepsis, meningitis and haemorrhagic pulmonary oedema (bloody fluid on the lungs). This leads into haemorrhagic pneumonia with shock (which my med. micro textbook describes quaintly as "a terminal event"). Cutaneous anthrax is about 20% fatal if untreated: pulmonary anthrax (which admittedly needs a much higher dose of spores to develop) is almost 100% fatal within 48 hours or so. Not nice. Not nice at all.

Treatment is via antibiotics (mostly penicillin to which most [but not all] strains are sensitive). Treatment of pulmonary anthrax is much less effective and mortality remains high. In either case, treatment must be started as soon as possible (once the bugs are in the bloodstream, it's goodnight Vienna). Vaccination is possible, but duration of protection is limited (not sure about the new vaccines - which may be much more effective).

The main reservoir of infection is contaminated soil (via spores from the arcasses of infected livestock). Person to person spread is not described n any of my textbooks (I checked) but this doesn't mean that it couldn't happen.

Anthrax is probably the viable organism for use as a biological weapon: the spores hang around almost indefinitely until they find the correct conditions to germinate. Anthrax has probably been used as a weapon (Rhodesia 1978-80 anthrax outbreak), and has escaped from a biological weapons research facility (Military camp 19: Sverdlovsk [now Ekatarinsburg] 900 miles east of Moscow, USSR 1979: Number of cases unknown - possibly in the hundreds: apparently only a fraction of a gram of spores got out: Yeltsin admitted all this in 1992).

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998 20:26:21 EDT
From: J. Frederick MacKenzie

A practical approach is hollowpoints filled with nicotine - The materials to make such are not too hard to come by.

By the way, intel. where I work indicates that some drug dealers are using Ricin in phony drug packages in the hope of killing police officers. The stuff is not only toxic to the touch, when placed in a drug test kit, it gives off toxic fumes.

Personally I would go for anthrax as Clostridia cannot grow in areas well supplied with blood or oxygen.

I'd recommend the Clostridia as much easier to find in a virulent form. The stuff would have to be mixed with a toxin that interferes with the local circulation, such as brown recluse spider venom.

In regard to High Explosive Slugs, the ones that I've used (gun dealer in the family) were basically similar to hollowpoints filled with C4.

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 02:22:02 EDT
From: moc.loa|sodnamI#moc.loa|sodnamI

Reynhard Heydrich's death was not caused by bacillus anthracis, as stated in a few email letters. The clinical course of anthrax does not even resemble the medical facts of the monster's death. In truth, Heydrich was killed by X - botulin, which is the toxin that causes the often-fatal form of food poisoning called botulism. Scientists from Porton Down in England produced a grenade containing a far greater than lethal dose of this absolutely deadly toxin (less than .1 mg would kill anyone) and he suffered a man-made case of the very rare (but nevertheless real) wound botulism, in fact the grenade did contain clostridium botulinum spores and these very likely germinated in the open wound, which was not judged fatal when seen by doctors. But Heydrich soon manifested the neurological symptoms so typical of botulism cases, including the deep coma that precedes death, and the final respiratory failure caused by the potent neurotoxin X. The German doctors even found traces of the agent in his system.

If he had died of anthrax, he would have manifested other symptoms, such as coal black ulcers (cutaneous anthrax), bowell perforation and toxemia (intestinal anthrax), pulmonary edema and failure (pulmonary anthrax), or meningitis and rapid death from brain cell destruction (meningitis caused by b. anthracis, a 100% fatal condition resulting in hemorraging and massive brain damage caused by the lethal toxins made by the bacillus). He at no time manifested any concrete sign of having anthrax, and this would have been duly noted if he had, as anthrax is well known in most medical circles, especially in Europe (where it has a myriad of names, i.e. "carbune").

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 11:11:50 -0400
From: Graeme Price

Imandos wrote:

Agreed. Anthrax and Botulism are totally different beasts.

I think that you missed out the word "allegedly" somewhere here. The official cause of death was septicaemia. The Gestapo investigation (by department IIg which dealt with assassinations, illegal possession of weapons and sabotage) concluded that death was caused when the bomb fragments together with horse hair [horse faeces contains a number of toxigenic bacterial species - including Cl. botulinum and Cl.perfringens) from the seat stuffing penetrated Heydrich's body "thus causing the fatal blood poisoning". The botulius toxin work at Porton (including work on "the efficacy of contaminated metal fragments in producing lethal wounds") was carried out after Heydrich's death. All this data comes from "The Plague Makers: The secret world of biological warfare" by Wendy Barnaby. Vision Paperbacks 1997: ISBN 1-901250-04-0 UK price 9.99 which is an excellent and informative little read.

Note also that the spores themselves don't contain or produce the toxin (they are metabolically inactive) and must germinate for the toxin to be produced.

If he had died of anthrax, he would have manifested other symptoms

Yes, very accurate. I posted a little on this too. Very interesting paper in Science on Anthrax Lethal Factor a couple of months back: interferes with cell signalling pathways (MAPP kinase for the biologists). Actually has some possibilities to be used as a cancer treatment!

in Europe (where it has a myriad of names, i.e. "carbune").

That's carbuncle [or the English National Opera house as those in the UK know :)]

Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 14:40:08 -0500 (CDT)
From: Don Juneau

The British would have had to be *incredibly* desperate to play with anthrax in such a situation, however; there's an island (forget the name just now) off a small village up north that's *still* contaminated, after one test during the war… it's one of the classic examples of not-really-bright ideas in the field of CBW. (IIRC, they merely threw the dead sheep into the *ocean*. Seems to me, at least one had washed up elsewhere, too..)

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