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Scientists Release Report On 2001 Anthrax Attacks

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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists have published the first paper based on their investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001. It came out Monday and, as Mary Bubala reports, it reveals how they figured out the anthrax spores that killed five people all came from one source.

From a lab at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland, Dr. David Rasko explains how he and his colleagues helped develop a key piece of evidence in the FBI’s investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001.  They traced the anthrax spore used in the letters back to a flask.  Dr. Bruce Ivins, a scientist at Fort Detrick who became the prime suspect in the attacks, had primary access to it.

“Once we broke the code, it became very evident that the differences that we were finding were limited to a very small number of samples that could all be linked to each other,” Rasko said. 

The FBI used what the scientists found at the University of Maryland to seal their case against Ivins. Their research created a new field known as Microbial Forensics, technology that will now play a role in investigating any future bio-terror attacks.

Rasko and Ravel personally knew Ivins and had attended research conferences with him.  They’re also familiar with a panel of respected scientists who just last month concluded the science falls short of convincing them that Ivins sent the anthrax-laced letters. 

The researchers at the University of Maryland stand by their findings in this investigation.  They realize it was one piece of evidence the FBI used to build its case.

Ivins committed suicide just days before he was going to be indicted.

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