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University of Maryland School of Medicine publishes scientific paper on 2001 anthrax attacks
Date:5/3/2011

p>The scientific investigation began by asking if the anthrax used in all the letters had come from the same source. The spores in each letter had been prepared differently, making them look different from one another to the naked eye. Military scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md., took spores from each letter and grew them in the laboratory. Looking with an expert eye at the samples they had grown, the scientists could see that a small number of the bacterial colonies looked very different from the ordinary appearance of most of the anthrax bacteria. The scientists isolated those unusual spores and grew them alone. As the spores replicated, the scientists saw that the differences or variations persisted, indicating that they were not some kind of aberration.

"Samples from the letters had the same combination of variants in the spores," said Dr. Ravel. "That was one of the first things that began to link the letters."

Next, Institute for Genome Sciences researchers were charged with sequencing the genome of those populations of variant bacterial colonies just those spores that looked unusual. They wanted to find out if there were genetic differences that were making the colonies of bacteria look unique. There were, and those same genetic differences were found the spore preparations from all the letters, conclusively linking them to the same source. There were four types of these variations found in the anthrax that came in the letters. Scientists eventually discovered that the anthrax used in the attacks was the product of at least two different production batches of anthrax that had been mixed together, each with its own unique distribution of variants. Mixing the batches created a unique combination of genetic signatures that later helped them track the spore preparations back to the source flask in the lab of Dr. Ivins.

"This data we uncovered acted like a geneti
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Contact: Karen Robinson
karobinson@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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