Is the Pentagon Planning to Inject Us With Super-Human Invincibility Juice?

<a href="http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-4415954257">UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani</a>

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Gentlemen, please start your military-Obamacare forced-vaccination conspiracy engines.

The mystical Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting proposals from really smart people “for the development of nucleic acid platforms capable of in vivo host production of a transient immune prophylaxis for adults.” Put simply, it appears the Defense Department’s brain trust wants an injectable form of blood plasma “that is universal, safe, adaptable, and scalable to protect the US population.” It would be capable of morphing inside the human body to protect soldiers and civilians alike from…from what, exactly? “[E]merging or uncharacterized threats.” It’s kind of like Star Wars for your immune system.

The proposal is part of DARPA’s Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention (ADEPT) program, whose previous ideas included a plan to let soldiers diagnose their own health in the field by placing a single hair or a drop of semen on a kind of portable smart card. The current plan, however, goes beyond diagnosis, to what the agency calls Therapeutics: Prophylactic Options to Environmental and Contagious Threats (PROTECT), by proposing passive immunization“passive” because it introduces special antibodies into the recipient that are meant to combat a specific biological threat. (They’re different from active immunizations, which stimulate your immune cells to produce antibodies in perpetuity—the sort of protection that one gets in, say, a smallpox vaccine.) 

Such protection is called “transient” because it lasts only as long as the outside antibodies persist in the recipient’s body. Babies, for example, are born with passive immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella, thanks to antibodies their mothers pass along to them in utero. But those antibodies fade after a year or so, which is when doctors recommend MMR vaccinations. In the past, travelers were often given a shot of gamma globulin (a mixture of antibodies to all sorts of things) to bolster their immune systems against hepatitis—that’s transient, too.

Here’s another example of a passive immunization in action:

Passive immunization is useful against a variety of diseases for which a cure is either unknown, hard to procure, or slow to work. For example, the proposal states (PDF):

[E]ven with current access to anti-malarial drugs, more days were lost among U.S. soldiers to malaria in endemic regions than to bullets throughout the entire 20th century. Another concern is the approximately 30 percent of newly deployed military personnel that encounter severe gastroenteritis or dysentery (traveler’s diarrhea) within a few weeks of arrival at post.

If the technology works out, it could “confer protection to a healthy adult for a period of time, suitable to a military mission requirement or in a public health setting,” whether for malaria and dysentery and other “diseases of high military priority”—but, as the solicitation states, “development of any transient immunity system targeting infectious diseases or toxins will be considered.”

DNA- and RNA-based injections to cure whatever? Steel yourself for some hardcore conspiracy theories. There’s already a robust fear of proven vaccines among the paranoid—both inside the military and out of it. Besides the infamous alleged autism-vaccine links, serious tinfoil hatters charge that inoculations are a government plot to control our behavior and monitor our movements.

Imagine the suspicions that might arise from a bunch of military-engineered temporary vaccines for a panoply of maladies, especially after the groundless allegations that the Affordable Care Act “will lead to mandatory vaccinations for everyone.” (“Over my dead body,” one Paulie writes about supposedly forced HPV vaccinations.)

Government black-ops fantasies aside, Mother Jones has reached out to some virologists and immunologists to dig a little deeper into DARPA’s aspirations. More to come.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate