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Biological weapons (often termed "bio-weapons", "biological threat agents", or "bio-agents") are living organisms or replicating entities (viruses, which are not universally considered "alive") that reproduce or replicate within their host victims.

As a tactical weapon for military use, a significant problem with a BW attack is that it would take days to be effective, and therefore might not immediately stop an opposing force.It is not clear, however, whether the smallpox was a result of the Fort Pitt incident or the virus was already present among the Delaware people.By 1900 the germ theory and advances in bacteriology brought a new level of sophistication to the techniques for possible use of bio-agents in war.Toxins and psychochemical weapons are often referred to as midspectrum agents.Unlike bioweapons, these midspectrum agents do not reproduce in their host and are typically characterized by shorter incubation periods.The research was championed by Winston Churchill and soon tularemia, anthrax, brucellosis, and botulism toxins had been effectively weaponized.

In particular, Gruinard Island in Scotland, was contaminated with anthrax during a series of extensive tests for the next 56 years.

In the latter case, or if a nation-state uses it clandestinely, it may also be considered bioterrorism.

There is an overlap between biological warfare and chemical warfare, as the use of toxins produced by living organisms is considered under the provisions of both the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Offensive biological warfare, including mass production, stockpiling, and use of biological weapons, was outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

The rationale behind this treaty, which has been ratified or acceded to by 170 countries as of April 2013, Many countries, including signatories of the BWC, currently pursue research into the defense or protection against BW, which is not prohibited by the BWC.

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