The science behind the ‘Anthrax Letter’ attack investigation

February 26, 2009

By hammersmith

[Source: ScienceDaily] – Innovative science was a very important part of the investigation of the anthrax letters, but has been widely misrepresented in the popular press because of secrecy requirements imposed by the FBI. This secrecy veil is now being lifted by allowing the investigative scientists to present their methods and findings.

Scientists directly involved in the investigation of the anthrax letter attacks of 2001 described the process of investigating the anthrax letter attacks in a presentation given on February 24, 2009 at the ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Baltimore, MD.

Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University described the crime scene, the events, letters and the victims in the context of their work. Much of Dr. Keim’s talk was about the Ames strain, which was the type of B. anthracis found in the letters. Scientists examined B. anthracis strains. Whole genome sequencing of the Ames genome led to the discovery of DNA polymorphisms that were unique to the Ames laboratory strain. Highly sensitive and specific assays were developed to identify the strain material. These were subjected to extensive validation to insure that the investigators knew their strengths and weaknesses.

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