A recent study claims worldwide consumer demand for Botox is driving a black-market of fake versions of the cosmetic. The uncontrolled and unregulated production and distribution of counterfeit Botox could lead to would-be bioterrorists harboring botulinum-toxin, the study warns.

According to the study authors, “The fake cosmetic products generally contain real toxin, albeit in widely varying amounts.” However, while one small vial might not pose a serious threat, the potential for would-be terrorists to purchase the products in bulk, or attempt to manufacture botulinum toxin themselves, is a grave concern.

Botulinum toxin is one of the most toxic substances known to man, more toxic than sarin nerve agent. It is estimated that a single gram of crystallized botulinum toxin could kill more than one million people. Botulinum toxin could be used to contaminate food supplies, but a more likely scenario involves dissemination of the toxin as an aerosol.

Universal Detection Technology (UDT), a developer of early-warning monitoring technologies to protect people from bioterrorism and other infectious health threats, commented last week on the study, which was conducted by Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and published in the June 2010 issue of Scientific American.

"This biowarfare potential puts the existence of illicit laboratories churning out the toxin and of shady distributors selling it worldwide through the Internet into a more disturbing light than most pharmaceutical fraud," notes the authors.

“The growing black market for counterfeit Botox, while a consumer protection issue, should be a major red flag for our national security,” says Jacques Tizabi, CEO of UDT. He also noted that the company’s flagship bioweapons detection kits, can help law enforcement teams uncovering counterfeit Botox detection labs in the field, as well as rapidly identifying suspicious agents discovered in unsecured locations.

[Source: Universal Detection Technology]