About A Jerk, A Jihad, and a Virus
Veterinary virologist Jason Mitchell can’t keep his mouth shut, can’t lie convincingly, and can’t follow orders. He’s an unlikely candidate to help the CIA locate and destroy a deadly hybrid virus stolen from Jason’s lab at the University of Minnesota. From Washington to Djibouti, From Minneapolis to Yemen, Marines cringe, Senators turn livid, and CIA agents shudder as Jason struggles to prevent the virus from becoming a biological weapon in the hands of jihadists.
Jason and Ann Hartman, veterinarians, lovers, and graduate students, conduct a study of BCV in calves, a common virus that causes diarrhea in cattle. A recently arrived Chinese student accidentally exposes the calves to the SARS virus, a close relative of BCV. The calves and the Chinese student develop a severe and puzzling pneumonia. The Center for Disease Control isolates a hybrid BCV-SARS virus from the Chinese student and the calves. The FBI is notified of the new and dangerous virus.
Ahmed, more con man than graduate student, discovers samples of Jason’s that contain the virus. He steals them and flees to Yemen where he pretends to be a devout Muslim to get funding from a jihadist group. The jihadists believe the virus will be valuable as a biological weapon and as bait to lure the CIA into military action that will kill innocent civilians and increase hatred of the US. Jason and an unconventional CIA agent redefine “thinking outside the box” as they con Ahmed, dodge bullets, and thwart the jihadists.
As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, I developed a way to extract microbial DNA from swine feces and a molecular test for Lawsonia intracellularis, the cause of a disease in swine and horses. I earned a PhD in microbiology and spent the following 19 years working in R&D on vaccines for cattle and swine. I supervised clinical research on bovine coronavirus (BCV) for a major pharmaceutical company, and took a special interest in the evolution of virulence of pathogens.