Be prepared. That was essentially the take-home message of a mid-February conference on bioterrorism held in Crystal City, Va., and sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Society for Microbiology. Conference speakers addressed the following: Could a bioterrorist attack occur in the United States? The answer: absolutely--in fact, the chances are pretty good, given the availability and ease of production of several biologic agents including smallpox and anthrax, generally believed to be the best candidates.1 The more pertinent questions are when and to what degree.

"It's not for lack of capability that we have seen limited deployment of biological weapons," warned symposium speaker Joshua Lederberg, president emeritus of Rockefeller University. He adds that the limitations have more to do with the experience and motivations of terrorists, both of which...

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