[Commentary] Chemical Additives in Biowarfare Agents

Author: MOS billwilliam

The People’s Liberation Army initiated its bioweapon program a long time ago. In 2008, PLA General Yang Ruifu authored a textbook for graduate students titled “Medical Science on Defense against Biohazard,” which explains the various aspects of biowarfare, such as the preparation of biological agents, attack methods, detection, and the devastating power of such weapons. According to a section of the book, chemical additives can significantly enhance the survival of aerosolized pathogens for more destructive effects.   

On pages 34-35, the book described different additives that can bolster the stability and efficacy of biological agents. [1] The excerpt is translated below:

“V. Raising the survival rate of biological agents in aerosols.

To improve the stability and to enhance the efficacy of biological agents, foreign countries have done extensive research in different approaches. Their research results illustrate that the relatively applicable method is to add some chemicals in the solution (or dry powder) of biological agents, such as protective reagents or additives. The advancement of science (i.e., molecular biology) has made it possible to upgrade current biological agents and to improve their survival rate by micro-encapsulation technology or genetic engineering.   

(I) Protective reagents

The protective reagents that can boost the survival of microorganisms in aerosols are organic compounds.

(1) Sugars. Disaccharides and trisaccharides.

(2) The salt of organic acids. The salts of ascorbic acid, phenolic glucosides, and phenolic galactosides. The protective effects are more pronounced in the presence of multivalent metal ions.

(3) Organic metal chelating agents that can suppress metabolism, such as 8-hydroxyquinoline, thiourea, phenanthroline, acyl hydrazide, dihydrazide, etc.

(4) Protein hydrolysis products, blood serum, and polyhydric alcohols.

There is currently no uniform theory on the mechanism of protective agents to explain the observed phenomenon. But overall, there are three explanations: cytosol/cell wall separation theory, water exclusion theory, enzyme stability theory.

(II) The application of micro-encapsulation on the survival of biowarfare agent aerosols.

Using micro-encapsulation to increase the stability of biological agents in aerosols is another development direction worthy of attention.

Micro-encapsulation is the technology of wrapping microparticles or droplets in protective membranes to change the properties of enclosed materials or to seal off the materials from environmental influences. The micro-encapsulation technology applicable for biological agents is still in the research phase. If this technology is successfully applied to the aerosol of biological agents, it may cause difficulties in diagnosis. So, we should pay attention to this problem.

(III) The application of genetic engineering on the survival of biowarfare agent aerosols.

Through the means of genetic engineering, high virulence genes of microorganisms that have a low survival rate in aerosols can be recombined with plasmids in vitro and transferred into host cells that have a high survival rate for expression. In this way, both highly contagious and highly stable novel biowarfare agents are created—genetic bioweapon.”

This original Chinese text is shown below.

This excerpt explains in detail the PLA’s plan to enhance the stability and infectivity of their biological agents by chemical additives. Potential additives include sugars, organic acids, organic metal chelators, protein hydrolysis products, serum, and polyhydric alcohols (such as glycerin). Among these, sugars, protein lysates, serum, and polyhydric alcohols can stabilize the structure of proteins in pathogens and thus protect the biological agent. Organic metal chelators can deplete metal ions in the environment and inhibit protein degradation by metalloproteases. Metabolism suppressors may also keep bacteria in a hibernation state and prolong their survival time. The CCP’s military also envisions enclosing pathogens in micro-encapsulation to enhance the survival rate. In addition, the PLA plans to transfer the virulence genes of unstable microorganisms into more stable microorganisms to create genetic bioweapons.

In another PLA biowarfare textbook titled “The Unnatural Origin of SARS-1 and the Man-made Human Virus as a Genetic Bioweapon,” General Xu Dezhong mentions the application of freeze-drying technology to create the dry powder of pathogens that can be sprayed over enemy territory. [2] Adding chemical additives and then freeze-drying can greatly enhance the stability of viruses or other pathogens. As an example, I found a protocol on how to convert Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) into a dry powder that is stable for a few hours at the hot summer temperature of 37oC or 98.6oF. [3] RSV is also a type of pneumonia virus. In fact, as illustrated by a diagram in the protocol, chemical-additive-enhanced virus dry powder retains 30% infectivity after 24 hours of incubation at 37oC. The additives used in this protocol match perfectly with the descriptions in General Yang Ruifu’s book: the chemical additives include sucrose (a disaccharide), glutamate (amino acid or organic acid), and bovine albumin (a protein extracted from blood serum). [3] Freeze drying is a common lab technique for the long-term storage of samples or vaccines, yet the PLA plans to use this technique for bioweapon development. Whereas I don’t have the intelligence on whether the PLA has ever used additives to boost the thermal stability of their bioweapon SARS-CoV-2, General Yang Ruifu’s biowarfare book clearly demonstrates their interest and ambition in this field. Chemical additives help weaponize viruses by boosting thermal stability, as additives enable the delivery of bioweapon viruses at room temperature.

Thermal stability diagram of RSV at 37oC. Freeze-dried virus has much higher stability than the non-free-dried control groups. Additive-enhanced (dotted line) virus dry powder is also more stable than dry powder without additives (solid line).



Another stabilization strategy outlined by Yang Ruifu is micro-encapsulation, which involves enclosing pathogenic bacteria in a protective membrane. This is usually done by coating the bacteria with polymers to create microparticles that are resistant to environmental or chemical stress such as acidic conditions in the stomach, sunlight radiation, high temperature, or oxidation. Micro-encapsulation by itself is a harmless technology for creating slow-release pharmaceuticals, aerosolized vaccines, or long-lasting bio-pesticides [4, 5]. Only the PLA schemes to repurpose this technology for nefarious bioweapon development.   

General Yang Ruifu’s book clearly manifests the PLA’s plans to enhance their biological agents by chemical additives, chemical coating technology, or genetic engineering. In the era of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese Communist Party releasing the virus must be overthrown, or the pandemic may never end.   


1. Yang, Ruifu. “Medical Science on Defense against Biohazard.” Military Medical Science Press. (2008). (book written in Chinese)

ISBN: 978-7-80245-060-8

2. Xu Dezhong. “The Unnatural Origin of SARS-1 and the Man-made Human Virus as a Genetic Bioweapon.” Military Medical Science Press. (2015). (book written in Chinese)

ISBN: 978-7-5163-0587-4

3. Tannock, G., and et al. “Freeze-Drying of Respiratory Syncytial Viruses for Transportation and Storage.” Journal of Clinical Microbiology. Vol. 25, No. 9 (1769-1771)


4. Rodríguez, A.P.G., and et al. “Bio-insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis spores encapsulated with amaranth derivatized starches: studies on the propagation ‘in vitro’.” Bioprocess Biosyst Eng. 38, 329–339 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00449-014-1273-7

5. Eski, A., and et al. “Microencapsulation of an indigenous isolate of Bacillus thuringiensis by spray drying.” Journal of Microencapsulation. 36:1, 1-9, (2019) DOI: 10.1080/02652048.2019.1572238

PLA officers involved in bioweapon development. The fourth person on the second row is General Yang Ruifu.

Proofread|Posted by: Mr. Z

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