The best defense against biological warfare, experts contend, is a population of strong immune systems.
That’s why Texas A&M University researchers are investigating ways to arm Americans against attacks involving toxins, viruses and bacteria.
They want to find out which genes allow toxins and microbes to hijack cells so they eventually can develop drugs to protect humans against biological attacks. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency is funding the research through a $12.2 million contract.
Geneticists will screen thousands of cell lines from mice, each with a missing gene. The strongest cells then will be developed in living mice to test their resistance to deadly agents. The studies will focus on rabies, brucella and botulinum.
“It’s not like we can just give them a shot of antibiotics and send them home,” said Deeann Wallis, a molecular geneticist and project manager for the research.
In addition to new vaccines to counter biothreats, researchers also might discover a cure for rabies. Without immediate treatment, the virus nearly always results in death. Though rare in the United States, it kills nearly 60,000 people each year around the world.