ASM Curriculum Recommendations: Bioterrorism Topics for All

An outline of the bioterrorism-related topics that should be addressed to students ranging from non-biology majors to microbiology majors. The outline was developed by the participants of the Ninth Annual ASM Undergraduate Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Niel R. Baker
The Ohio State University
Chair, Undergraduate Education Committee of ASM

One of the outcomes of the Ninth ASM Undergraduate Education Conference held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in May, 2002, was a set of curriculum recommendations for teaching bioterrorism. The 100+ participants were placed into twelve groups based on their teaching audience, and each group was assigned the task of developing an outline of the topics that should be addressed. Although the teaching audiences ranged from non-biology majors to microbiology majors, the outlines were very similar, thus one summary outline is presented below. Every attempt has been made to include input from all of the groups. This summary recommendation is meant to serve as an outline for planning; it does not provide detailed information about each topic. Such information can be found in the resources provided at the end of the article.


Define: Distinguish between bioterrorism, biowarfare, and biocrimes

Historical Perspective

  • Ancient
  • Recent

The Threat

  • Who and why
  • Agents
    • Primary agents and classes
    • Characteristics-why these agents
    • Symptoms
    • Pathogenicity
    • Epidemiology-natural and targeted release
    • Define "weaponized"version(s)

The Outbreak

  • Surveillance and detection
  • Response
  • Prevention
  • Protection
    • Local and federal protection and reaction plans
  • Decontamination
  • Economic impact

Research and Development

  • What do we know?
  • What don't we know?
  • What is being done?
  • How will research help?
  • What do we need?

Ethical Issues

  • Personal
  • National
  • Who needs to know what
  • When should the public be informed
  • Cost-benefit ratios
  • Who should be protected (e.g. vaccination)

Information management

  • Where to get good information
  • How to identify good information
  • Evaluation of news reports
  • How to communicate with the media

Student perspective

  • Feedback from the students
  • Opinions and thoughts
  • Fears
  • Misinformation
  • Information management
  • What do they need or want to know

The level of content and approach to delivery of the material will depend greatly on the audience. Numerous types of student projects such as reports, posters, flyers for distribution, and invited guests are possible. This is clearly a topic that will interest every student at any level.


1. Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies.

2. Resources related to biological weapons control and bioterrorism preparedness. index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=520