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Preparing for a bioterrorist event or biological threat: Workshop at the RKI. Source: RKI

Biological Threats

Prevent, identify and limit impact

Threats which are caused by the use of certain substances or agents can be of natural origin or caused unintentionally or deliberately. They are distinguished by the triggering substance: chemical – biological – radiological – nuclear – explosive (CBRNE).

At the Robert Koch Institute the focus is on handling threats of biological origin. According to Fock (2007) these are characterised as follows:

  • The trigger and impact are time-delayed: the actual crisis situation is in most cases not identifiable directly after the initial event but develops in a time-delayed manner, i.e. if a special clinical picture is diagnosed in a disproportionately high number of persons.
  • Variable danger potential: the actual threat is extremely variable due to the large number of relevant agents, their carriers and vectors as well as their application methods and means
  • Autonomous development and spreading: the crisis situation can be reinforced through contamination and (secondary and tertiary) infections of persons who were not involved in the original event.
  • Momentous protective measures: in order to contain the danger, measures can be taken which place public welfare above individual rights.

The consequences of a release or a natural outbreak of highly pathogenic agents can be serious. For that reason the Centre for Biological Threats and Special Pathogens (ZBS) of the Robert Koch Institute deals with application and measure-based research including the fields of epidemiology, diagnostics, prevention as well as risk and crisis management.
The objective is to prevent diseases and their spreading and hence to protect public health.

Date: 01.02.2012


  • Fock R (2007): Außergewöhnliche biologische Gefahren.
    In: RKI und BBK (eds), Biologische Gefahren I - Handbuch zum Bevölkerungsschutz, 3. Auflage. Berlin/Bonn: Robert Koch-Institut und Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz, 26-39.