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Surveillance of bacterial disease in wartime Ukraine
  1. Joel R Keep and
  2. D J Heslop
  1. School of Population Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Joel R Keep, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, 2052, Australia; z3267180{at}


This analysis considers circulation of bacterial disease in wartime Ukraine. Anthrax, brucellosis, botulism and tularaemia are all naturally occurring in the country. The causative agents of these diseases also formed components of the biological weapons programme the Russian Federation inherited from the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. Differentiating between natural and unnatural outbreaks of disease in Ukraine is essential for combating disinformation and maintaining health security as the war intensifies.

  • Public health

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  • Presented at This article follows the recent publication of a Watching Brief in the journal Global Biosecurity, in which the authors called for enhanced surveillance of anthrax in wartime Ukraine. Corresponding author JRK (guarantor) works as a research assistant to coauthor Assoc Prof DH. DH has deployed into a variety of complex and austere combat environments, and has advanced international training in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Medicine. He retains military responsibilities as Senior Medical Adviser for CBRNE to the Australian Defence Force leadership and teaches postgraduate studies in bioterrorism and health intelligence at the University of New South Wales. This article draws on historical literature that details the Soviet and Russian biological weapons programmes, and contemporaneous data on naturally occurring outbreaks of bacterial disease in Ukraine.

  • Collaborators Not applicable.

  • Contributors Both authors made equal contributions. JRK conceived of and wrote the manuscript. DH provided essential guidance, editorial advice and fact-checking.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.