It would make sense that a "good" negative ion generator should
impact on bacteria. Bacteria generate energy by pumping hydrogen
(H+) ions out of the cell. Those ions flow back across the
ion gradient through ATP synthase to generate the ATP the bacteria
require for other biochemical functions. Negative ions in the
environment outside the cell would presumably reduce the ion
gradient and/or bind the hydrogen ions depleating the ability
of the bacteria to synthesize ATP.
Similarly, if the outer protein coat of a non-enveloped virus (or the
proteins embedded in the lipid membrane of an enveloped virus) are dependent
on positively charged amino acids for binding to cellular receptors,
negatively charged ions would be attracted to those amino acids and serve
to disrupt receptor binding. The fact that probably only a limited
subset of viruses require such amino acids for receptor binding
explains why ion generators would be less effective against them.
Anthrax spores are essentially bacterial "seeds". It is difficult
to imagine how an ion generator could "sterilize" them without
continuous ion production. You need chemicals that can penetrate
the spore or radiation that permanently damages their DNA to
neutralize them. Spores are very hardy which is why getting
rid of them generally requires a "scorched earth" approach.
There are methods scientists have developed to utilize proteins
to disrupt the anthrax toxin (something potentially much more
effective and faster acting than antibiotics or vaccinations).
But once these anti-toxin therapies become generally known,
terrorists can presumably utilize similar methods to evolve
toxins that can avoid the specific strategies utilized by
the anti-toxins. There will clearly be an arms race if
terrorist organizations have sufficient funding to build
molecular biology laboratories. Fortunately, at least for
now, such labs are expensive and provide relatively obvious
targets. But the development of "lab-on-a-chip" solutions
within the biotechnology industry may very well make that
situation a fleeting guarantee of security.
One has to wonder how many terrorist sleeper agents are attending
classes in molecular biology at universities in the more developed
countries now and when the governments will wake up sufficiently
to realize that the high-speed centrifuges of the '80s are the
DNA and protein synthesizers of today.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:13 MDT