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Biological weapons have been used since antiquity, with documented cases dating back to the 6th century bc, when the Assyrians poisoned wells with ergots. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Japanese Army (Unit 731) experimented on prisoners of war in Manchuria with biological agents that are thought to have resulted in at least 10,000 deaths. Although in 1972 over 100 nations signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), both the former Soviet Union and Iraq have admitted to the production of biological weapons, and many other countries are suspected of continuing their programs. Today, bioweapons are considered the cheapest and easiest weapons of mass destruction to produce. Some agents (Table II–58) that are thought to be likely to be used include Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Yersinia pestis (plague), Clostridium botulinum toxin (botulism), Variola major (smallpox), and Francisella tularensis (tularemia). All these agents can be weaponized easily for aerial dispersion.

Table II-58 Biological Warfare Agents (Selected)

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