Onproliferation


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Stories of  the Soviet Anti-Plague System
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AMN – Akademiia Meditsinskikh Nauk SSSR (USSR Academy of  Medical Sciences)
AN – Akademiia Nauk SSSR (USSR Academy of  Sciences)
AP – anti-plague
BWC – 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of  the Development, Production and Stockpiling of  
Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction
CIS – Commonwealth of  Independent States
CNS – James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of  International 
Studies, Monterey, California
CPSU – Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza (Communist Party of  the Soviet Union)
FSB – Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (Russian Federal Security Service)
FSU – former Soviet Union
KGB – Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti (Committee on State Security)
MEDGIZ – State Publishing House of  Medical Literature
MOD – Ministerstvo Oborony (USSR Ministry of  Defense)
MOH – Ministerstvo Zdravookhraneniya (USSR Ministry of  Health)
NII – nauchno-issledovatelsky institut (scientific research institute)
NKVD – Narodny Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (People’s Commissariat of  Internal Affairs)
NTI – Nuclear Threat Initiative, Washington, DC
OGPU – Obyedinennoe Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie (Unified State Political Administration) – 
one of  the several forerunners of  the KGB
PCR – polymerase chain reaction
RAN – Rossiyskaya Akademiia Nauk (Russian Academy of  Sciences)

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RF – Rossiyskaya Federatsiya (Russian Federation)
RKKA – Raboche-Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya (Worker’s and Peasant’s Red Army)
SRCAM – State Research Center for Applied Microbiology of  Biopreparat in Obolensk
SSR – Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika  (Soviet Socialist Republic)
US – United States
USSR – Union of  the Soviet Socialist Republics
VEEV – Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus
VNII – All-Union Research Institute… (of  something)
VUZ – (higher educational institution)
ZhMEI – Zhurnal  mikrobiologii,  epidemiologii  i  immunobiologii  (Journal  of   Microbiology,  Epidemiology  and 
Immunology)
 

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Aerosol—a colloidal suspension of  liquid droplets or solid particles in air. For the purposes of  this 
book, all aerosols we discuss are “bioaerosols,” which are aerosols with components containing 
formulated bacteria, viruses, or toxins.
All-union (vsesoyuzny)—national; an agency, enterprise, institute, or unit that existed throughout the 
Soviet Union.
Amino acid—any of  a group of  20 organic compounds that are linked together in various combinations 
to form peptides or proteins.
Antibody—a  specific  protein  molecule  produced  by  an  organism’s  immunological  defense  system 
when it is challenged by a foreign substance (the antigen). The antibody neutralized the antigen by 
binding to it.
Antigen—a substance that, when introduced into an organism, elicits from it an immunological 
defensive response. Many living microorganism or chemical agents can, under appropriate 
circumstances, become antigens.
Antiserum—a serum containing antibodies.
Applied  research—experimental  or  theoretical  work  directed  toward  the  application  of   scientific 
knowledge for the development, production, or utilization of  some useful product or capability.
Bacteria—one-celled organisms lacking a nucleus and having a plasma membrane cell wall. Bacteria 
can be aerobes or anaerobes; only a small percentage of  bacteria are pathogenic. They store most of  
their DNA in one long, looping molecule (chromosome), but can also contain plasmids, which are 
small, circular, double-stranded DNA molecules that replicate independently from their host (see 
Plasmid, below).
Basic research—experimental or theoretical work that is undertaken to acquire knowledge of  
fundamental principles of  phenomena and observable facts and that may not be directed toward a 
specific application.
Bioinformatics—the application of  information technologies to analyze and manage large data sets 
resulting from such activities as gene sequencing of  the human and non-human genomes.
Biomodulators—a general term for biological or synthetic agents that are capable of  eliciting specific 
and/or non-specific effects on immunological or neurological response systems for either positive or 
negative purposes. Thus immunomodulators can, on the one hand, enhance the immune response 
that defends a person against pathogens or, on the other, can depress a host’s immunological defense 

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system, thereby making the host more susceptible to infection. Similarly, neuromodulators can improve 
a person’s mood or, conversely, can cause a person to suffer hallucinations and other irrational behavior.
Biosafety—in activities involving life forms or their parts, the observance of  precautions and preventive 
procedures that reduce the risk of  adverse effects.
Biosecurity—activities designed to secure for humans, animals, and plants freedom from possible 
hazards attending biological activities, such as research, development, testing, and applications; 
measures taken by governments to guard against damage that may be brought about by accidental or 
intentional exposure to biological agents or toxins.
Biotechnology—a collection of  processes and techniques that involve the use of  living organisms, 
or substances from those organisms, to make or modify products from raw materials for agricultural, 
industrial, or medical purposes.
Capability—the ability to produce or apply a particular set of  scientific techniques or technologies.
Catalyst—a substance that affects the rate of  a chemical reaction but remains itself  unaltered in form 
or amount.
Cell culture—the propagation of  cells removed from a plant or animal in culture.
Cell fusion—combining nuclei and cytoplasm from two or more different cells to form a single hybrid 
cell.
Central Committee—Central Committee of  the Communist Party of  the Soviet Union.
Clone—a group of  genetically identical cells or organisms asexually descended from a common 
ancestor. In case of  a cloned organism, all cells making up that organism have the same genetic 
material and are exact copies of  the original.
Cloning—the use of  genetic engineering to produce multiple copies of  a single gene or a segment of  
DNA.
Contagion—the transmission of  a pathogen from an infected person to an uninfected person by 
direct or indirect contact. For BW purposes, the major contagious pathogens are smallpox virus and 
Y. pestis.
Culture—the growth of  cells or microorganisms in a controlled artificial environment.
Culture, batch—a fermentation process that takes place within a fermenter, which is a closed culture 
system that contains an initial, limited amount of  nutrients. After seeding the culture with a few 

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microorganism of  choice, they are allowed to propagate until a vital nutrient is used up or waste 
products accumulate to such an extent that they negatively affect the growing microorganisms. After 
the fermentation ceases, the culture is removed from the fermenter and the microorganisms (biomass) 
are separated from the liquid culture medium. If  the biomass is the desired product, it is formulated. 
If  the bioproduct dissolved in the culture medium is the desired product, it is subjected to down-
stream processing.
Culture, continuous—this is an open fermentation system in which a steady-state is achieved by 
adding nutrients continuously to the culture and balancing the added material by removing cells 
constituting the biomass.
Cytokine—proteins, such as lymphokines and monokines, which are released by a host’s immunodefense 
system (primarily primed T-lymphocytes) when it detects an antigen. Cytokines, while part of  the 
immune defensive response to invaders, may also stimulate toxic or damaging actions to the host that 
produces them.
Database—a collection of  data, defined for one or more applications, which is physically located and 
maintained within one or more electronic computers.
Development—progressive advance from a lower or simpler to a higher or more complex form; the 
process of  applying scientific and technical knowledge to the practical realization or enhancement of  
a specific product or capability.
DNA—deoxyribonucleic acid; the carrier of  genetic information found in all living organisms (except 
for a small group of  RNA viruses). Every inherited characteristic is coded somewhere in an organism’s 
complement of  DNA.
Enzyme—a special protein produced by cells that catalyze chemical processes of  life.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)—a rapid and sensitive means for identifying and 
quantifying small amounts of  virus antigens or antiviral antibodies.
Escherichia coli (E. coli)—a species of  bacteria that commonly inhabits the human lower intestine and 
the intestinal tract of  most other vertebrates as well. Some strains are pathogenic, causing urinary tract 
infections and diarrheal diseases. Non-pathogenic strains are often used in laboratory experiments.
Expression—the translation of  a gene’s DNA sequence by RNA into protein.
Ferment—Codeword for the Soviet BW program that aimed to R&D bacterial and viral pathogens to 
harm and kill humans (in English – Enzyme).
Fermentation—the anaerobic bioprocess in which yeasts, bacteria, or molds are grown, or propagated, 

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within a closed container for one of  three purposes; to optimize: (1) maximum biomass production; (2) 
maximal production of  by-products such as alcohols, antibiotics, organic acids, and proteins (including 
toxins); or (3) maximum nutrient consumption as in waste treatment. There are two fermentation 
methods—batch and continuous culture (see above).
Five-year Plans:
First 5-year Plan, 1928-32
Second 5-year Plan, 1933-37
Third 5-year Plan, 1938-41
Fourth and Fifth 5-year Plans, 1946-50 and 1951-55
Sixth 5-year Plan, 1956-60
Seventh 5-year Plan, 1959-65
Eighth 5-year Plan, 1966-70
Ninth 5-year Plan, 1971-75
Tenth 5-year Plan, 1976-81
Eleventh 5-year Plan, 1981-85
Twelfth 5-year Plan 1986-90
Thirteenth 5-year Plan 1991
Fraction—a chemical agent or compound that may be separated out by chemical or physical methods 
from a solvent containing a mix of  substances.
Fungus—the majority of  fungi are made up by yeasts and mold, but also include mushrooms, rusts, 
and smuts. Yeasts are fungi that usually remain unicellular for most of  their life cycle and belong to 
the fungal families, ascomycetes, basidiomycetes, and imperfect fungi. Mold represents a large group 
of  fungi, such as Penicillium, which grows on food.
Gene—the fundamental unit of  heredity. Chemically a gene consists of  ordered nucleotides that code 
for a specific product or control a specific function.
Gene splicing—the use of  site-specific enzymes that cleave and reform chemical bonds in DNA to 
create modified DNA sequences.
Genetic engineering—a collection of  techniques used to alter the hereditary apparatus of  a living 
cell enabling it to produce more or different chemicals. These techniques include chemical synthesis 
of  genes, the creation of  recombinant DNA or recombinant RNA, cell fusion, plasmid transfer, 
transformation, transfection, and transduction.
Genome—an organism’s complete set of  genes and chromosomes.
Genomics—the scientific discipline of  mapping, sequencing, and analyzing genomes. There are two 
aspects to genomics. First, structural genomics is the construction of  high-resolution genetic, physical, 

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and transcript maps of  organisms. Second, functional genomics is the use of  information generated 
by structural genomics to develop experimental approaches for assessing gene function.
GlavmikrobiopromGlavnaya  upravleniya  mikrobiologicheskoi  promyshlennosti (USSR Main Administration 
of  Microbiological Industry).
Gossanepidnadzor—Russian State Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspection (renamed Rospotrebnadzor in 
2004).
GulagGlavnoe upravlenie ispravitelno-trudovykh lagerey (the Soviet Union’s penal system; more commonly, 
used as a general name for the network of  harsh labor camps in Siberia and other distant parts of  the 
Soviet Union).
Hazard—the likelihood that an agent or substance will cause immediate or short-term adverse effects 
or injury under ordinary circumstances of  use.
HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters—the highest efficiency filters readily available on the 
open market and used in the aerospace, biomedical, electronic, and nuclear fields. By definition, HEPA 
filters must capture 99.97 percent of  contaminants at 0.3 microns in size.
Host—a cell whose metabolism is used for growth and reproduction of  a virus, plasmid, or other 
form of  foreign DNA.
Host-vector  system—compatible  host/vector  combinations  that  may  be  used  for  the  stable 
introduction of  foreign DNA into host cells.
Hybridoma—a special cell produced by joining a tumor cell (myeloma) and an antibody-producing 
cell (lymphocyte). Cultured hybridoma produce large quantities a particular type of  monoclonal 
antibodies.
ID
50
—the number of  microorganisms required to infect 50 percent of  exposed individuals.
Immunomodulator—see “biomodulator.”
Infection—the invasion and settling of  a pathogen within a host.
Infectious—capable of  causing infection; spreading or capable of  spreading to others.
Intellectual property—the area of  the law encompassing patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights, 
and plant variety protection.
Interferon—a type of  glycoprotein discovered in the 1950s having potential as anti-cancer and anti-

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viral agents. Three types of  interferons are known, alpha (IFN-
α), beta (IFN-β) and gamma (IFN-γ). 
The gamma interferons are usually classified as cytokines.
In vitro—literally “in glass;” pertaining to biological processes or reactions taking place in an artificial 
environment, usually the laboratory.
In vivo—literally “in the living;” pertaining to biological processes or reactions taking place in a living 
system such as a cell or tissue.
Izvestiya (News) —nationwide daily newspaper published by the Presidium of  the Supreme Soviet of  
the Soviet Union (contrast with Pravda).
KomsomolVsesoyuzny  Leninsky  kommunistichesky  soyuz  molodezhi (All-Union Lenin Communist Youth 
League).
LD
50
—the dose, or amount, of  a chemical needed to cause death to 50 percent of  exposed individuals.
Log— the term “log” is shorthand for a “power of  ten.” Two logs (10
2
) are 100 and six logs (10
6

are 1 million. If  a scientist experiences a six log reduction of  virus viability in a solution, the titer has 
dropped 1 million times. An example of  a six log reduction would be a drop from 10
8
 to 10
2
.
Metabolism—the sum of  the chemical and physiological processes in a living organism in which 
foodstuff  are synthesized into complex biochemicals (anabolism); complex biochemicals transformed 
into simple chemicals (catabolism), and energy is made available for the organism to function and 
procreate.
Metabolite—a substance vital to the metabolism of  a certain organism, or a product of  metabolism.
Microorganism—a microscopic living entity, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. 
Micron—one millionth of  a meter. The diameter of  a human hair is approximately 100 microns. 
Mikrob—State Scientific Research Institute of  Microbiology and Epidemiology of  South-East Soviet 
Union in Saratov.
Ministry institute—a general designation for an R&D facility controlled by a ministry, including all 
anti-plague institutes, which were under the Ministry of  Health.
Minzdrav—Ministry of  Public Health.
Monoclonal antibody—an antibody produced by a hybridoma that recognizes only a specific antigen.

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Morbidity—the relative incidence of  disease.
Neuromodulator—see “biomodulator.”
Oblast—an administrative division in Russian that is akin to a Western province or state.
Oligonucleotides—short DNA molecules, usually containing fewer than 100 bases.
Opportunistic pathogen—a microorganism that is pathogenic to only immunocompromised persons.
Pathogen—an organism that causes disease.
Pathogenic—causing or capable of  causing disease.
Peptide—a linear polymer of  two or more amino acids. A polymer consisting of  many amino acids is 
called a polypeptide. Peptides are similar to proteins but smaller. Small molecules that can synthesized 
by joining individual amino acids are, by convention, called peptides rather than proteins. The dividing 
line is at about 50 amino acids; i.e., if  the polymer contains fewer than 50 amino acids it is a peptide, 
if  more, it is a protein.
Plasmid—small, circular, self-replicating forms of  DNA existing within bacteria. They are often used 
in recombinant DNA experiments as acceptors of  foreign DNA.
Plasmid transfer—the use of  genetic or physical manipulation to introduce a foreign plasmid into a 
host cell.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—a technique used in laboratories to quickly create thousands to 
millions of  copies of  genetic material for purposes of  analysis.
Pravda (Truth)—nationwide daily newspaper published by the Central Committee of  the CPSU 
(compare with Izvestiya).
Problem 5—codename for the top-secret Soviet program to defend against biological attacks and 
imported exotic diseases.
Production—the conversion of  raw materials into products or components thereof  through a series 
of  manufacturing processes.
Protein—see peptide.
Recombinant DNA (rDNA)—the hybrid DNA resulting from the joining pieces of  DNA from 
different sources.

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Risk—the probability of  injury, disease, or death for persons or groups of  persons undertaking 
certain activities or exposed to hazardous substances. Risk is sometimes expressed in numeric terms 
(in fractions) or qualitative terms (low, moderate or high).
RNA—ribonucleic acid; found in three forms—messenger, transfer, and ribosomal RNA. RNA assists 
in translating the genetic code of  a DNA sequence into its complementary protein.
Safe—not threatened by danger, or freed from harm, injury, or risk.
2
nd
 Directorate—Agency within the USSR MOH that directed the anti-plague system.
Security—being secure from danger; freedom from fear and anxiety; measures taken by governments 
to guard against espionage, sabotage, and surprises.
Seed—a bacterial or viral collection used as a “stock” for the large-scale production the organism 
itself  or products that it may ferment.
Serological studies—laboratory immunological procedures that depend on interactions between 
antibodies and antigens to confirm or reject specific associations between them.
Siberian plague or ulcer— 
сибирская язва (Russian name for anthrax).
Synthesis—the production of  a compound by a living organism.
T-cells—a class of  lymphocytes, derived from the thymus, involved primarily in controlling the host’s 
cell-mediated immune reactions and in the control of  B-cell development (see B-cell). The T-cells 
coordinate the host’s immune system by secreting lymphokine hormones. There are three different 
types of  T-cells: helper, killer, and suppressor.
Technology—the scientific and technical information, coupled with know-how, that is used to design, 
produce, and manufacture products or generate data.
Technology transfer—the process of  transferring intellectual property (intangible ideas such as 
algorithms, designs, and software) to organizations, including universities and commercial companies, 
to ensure it is well utilized. For successful technology transfer, the intellectual property must be 
protected through means such as copyrights and patents.
Threat—an indication of  something impending and usually undesirable or dangerous; something that 
by its very nature or relation to another threatens the welfare of  the latter.
Toxicity—the quality of  being poisonous, or the degree to which a substance is poisonous.

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Toxicology—the scientific discipline concerned with the study of  toxic chemicals and their effects on 
living systems.
Toxin—a poisonous chemical byproduct of  microorganisms, animals, or plants. (See also endotoxin 
and exotoxin.)
Toxoid—a toxin that has been chemically modified so that it is no longer toxic but still is able to 
induce antibody formation. Some toxoids may be used as vaccines against toxins.
Trait—a characteristic that is coded for in the organism’s DNA.
Transduction—the transfer of  one or more genes from one bacterium to another by a bacteriophage 
(a virus that infects bacteria).
Transfection—the process in which a bacterium is modified in a way that allows the cell to take up 
purified, intact viral, or plasmid DNA.
Transformation—the introduction of  new genetic information into a cell using naked DNA (i.e., 
without using a vector).
Vector—a transmission agent, usually a plasmid or virus, used to introduce foreign DNA into a host 
cell; also the all-inclusive name for a Biopreparat institute in Koltsovo that had several names, including 
IMB and VNII-MB.
Vest. AMN—Vestnik Akademii Meditsinskikh nauk SSSR (Journal of  the Medical Academy of  Sciences of  the 
Soviet Union).
Virus—a virus particle after it has entered a host cell and has subverted or is in the process of  
subverting that cell’s genetic mechanism to ensure its replication.
Weaponize—the process of  researching and developing a pathogen or toxin to the point where it 
becomes suitable for use in a weapons system.
Zh. mikrobiolZhurnal mikrobiologii, epidemiologii i immunobiologii (Journal of  Microbiology, Epidemiology and 
Immunology).
Zoonosis—a disease communicable from animals to humans under natural conditions.
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