The weapon potential of a microbe

Arturo Casadevall, Liise Anne Pirofski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The designation of a microbe as a potential biological weapon poses the vexing question of how such a decision is made given the many pathogenic microbes that cause disease. Analysis of the properties of microbes that are currently considered biological weapons against humans revealed no obvious relationship to virulence, except that all are pathogenic for humans. Notably, the weapon potential of a microbe rather than its pathogenic properties or virulence appeared to be the major consideration when categorizing certain agents as biological weapons. In an effort to standardize the assessment of the risk that is posed by microbes as biological warfare agents using the basic principles of microbial communicability (defined here as a parameter of transmission) and virulence, a simple formula is proposed for estimating the weapon potential of a microbe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-263
Number of pages5
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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