A North Korean soldier who defected into South Korea earlier this year has been found to have anthrax antibodies in his system, raising fears that the North is developing biological weapons with the deadly bacterium.
As Sky News Australia reports, the defector, whose name has not been released, had antibodies to the disease in his system. That means that he was either exposed to it accidentally or given a vaccination against it, according to South Korean officials. Either way, the presence of the bacterium in his system could indicate that Kim Jong-Un’s regime is developing biological weapons containing the agent. The defector, for his part, would be immune to the fatal disease.
“Anthrax antibodies have been found in the North Korean soldier who defected this year.”
U.S. and Asian officials have suspected since 2015 that the North is developing anthrax as a weapon, ever since the regime revealed that the Pyongyang Biological Technology Research Institute had been working on the agent. However, North Korean officials claim that the research into anthrax is simply agricultural and vowed “revenge” on the U.S. for claiming that it’s developing biological weapons.
Military analysts believe the regime is testing whether the agent can be attached to a missile — capable of reaching targets in South Korea, Japan, and even the U.S. — and then survive the harsh environment of the upper atmosphere while it travels across the globe, and then survive re-entry as well.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 27, 2017
Meanwhile, South Korea has not developed an effective anthrax vaccine, leaving its military and civilians at risk should the North attack with the biological agent. The U.S., meanwhile, does have an anthrax vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the agency reports that it is not available to the general public.
Exposure to anthrax causes fever and chills, shortness of breath, and blisters on the skin. There are three main forms of anthrax, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All forms of anthrax can be treated with antibiotics; however, the disease can still be fatal, depending on a host of factors, including how the victim was exposed.
The most common form of anthrax infection — cutaneous infection — comes from eating undercooked meat. This form of infection is fatal in only about 20 percent of cases. The airborne version of the infection — the kind that North Korea appears to be developing — has an 80 percent fatality rate, even with antibiotic treatment.