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The post 9-11 Anthrax attacks

Sept. 18, 2001 Trenton Mailing of anthrax letters to NBC and NY Post and probably to the National Enquirer.
Sept. 20 St. Petersburg Mailing of hoax letters to NBC and probably to NY Post [and National Enquirer?]
Sept. 21 place? Mailing of accusatory letter to Quantico Marine Base accusing Dr. Asaad, former USAMRIID scientist, as terrorist.
Sept. 19-25 NYC NBC received and opened ANTHRAX letter (brown granular sandy); not recognized as dangerous, and not reported by media.
Sept. 25 NYC NBC received and opened HOAX letter postmarked 20 Sept; notified FBI but incident not reported by media.
Oct. 1 DC Washington Times article quoting SH (reprint from 11 Aug 97).
Oct. 2 Boca Raton Stevens (AMI) checked into hospital, near death, undiagnosed.
Oct. 4 Boca Raton First report of anthrax case, 5pm (Stevens, AMI).
Oct. 5 Boca Raton Death of first anthrax victim (Stevens, inhalation anthrax).
Oct. 5 St. Petersburg Mailing of hoax letters hoax letters to J. Miller at NY Times and H. Troxler at St. Petersburg Times.
Oct. 5-8 US media Suspicion of possible bioterrorism is increasing but mail not implicated.
Oct. 6-7 Boca Raton At AMI, spores found in 2nd worker and on Stevens' computer keyboard.
Oct. 8 Boca Raton 2nd worker (Blanco, mailroom worker) at AMI sick, nasal spores detected; FBI takes over investigation, seals AMI office. Blanco later confirmed to have inhalation anthrax.
Oct. 9 US media Looks like bioterrorism (letters not yet recognized as source).
Oct. 9 St. Petersburg Troxler (St. P Times) opened hoax letter.
Oct. 9 Trenton Mailing of anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy.
Oct. 10 Boca Raton 3rd AMI worker (2nd in mailroom) tests positive for anthrax. FBI now conducting criminal investigation. Anthrax strain appears to be Ames.
Oct. 10-12 US media First suspicion that source of anthrax at AMI might be a letter (not found), since two of those affected work in mailroom.
Oct. 12 NYC Miller at NYT opened hoax letter.
Oct. 12-13 US media First reports of any anthrax of hoax letters to media.
Oct. 12 NYC NBC cutaneous anthrax case reported (Brokaw's Assistant). First symptom was 25 Sept.
Oct. 13 NYC NBC anthrax letter and hoax letter first reported. (FBI had ignored NBC hoax letter, opened 25 Sept., until anthrax diagnosed on 12 Oct.) Brokaw's Assistant now recalls seeing a second letter, weeks earlier, containing a brown, granular substance, most of which was discarded but letter retained.
Oct. 13 Boca Raton At least 6 workers at AMI have tested positive for anthrax and are on antibiotics.
Oct. 14 ff US media Copycat hoax letters now appearing.
Oct. 15 DC Daschle's office opened anthrax letter.
Oct. 16 NYC Infant who was at ABC office on 28 Sept. has cutaneous anthrax. No further evidence at ABC, suggests case due to cross-contamination of mail.
Oct. 16 Trenton Two postal workers report possible symptoms; by 20 Oct both diagnosed with inhalation anthrax.
Oct. 19 NYC NY Post anthrax employee diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax (symptoms started 22 Sept); letter with anthrax found unopened in mailroom. Employee remembers opening a similarly-addressed (hoax) letter earlier.
Oct. 20 US Media First mention that source of anthrax letters is probably domestic.
Oct. 21 DC Several DC postal workers may have anthrax. By 25 Oct, two DC postal workers were dead and two more ill, as well as a State Dept. mail processer, all with inhalation anthrax.
Oct. 24 ff US media Increasing concentration on domestic source for letters.
Oct. 31 NYC Dead from inhalation anthrax: Kathy Nguyen, hospital worker. No source found; presumed cross-contamination of mail, although clinical observations suggest a large initial dose.
Nov. 9 US Media FBI released profile of sender of anthrax letters, implying the source is domestic.
Nov. 15 UK Mailing of hoax letter to Daschle office in Capitol.
Nov. 16 DC Anthrax letter to Leahy found unopened in bag of Congressional mail held without distribution since Daschle letter received.
Nov. 16 CT Connecticut woman dies of inhalation anthrax; source probably cross-contamination of mail.
Jan. 03, 2002 DC Daschle's Capitol office opened hoax letter (delay in receipt due to irradiation of Capitol mail).

White House Mail Sorters Anthrax-Free

OCTOBER 24, 10:32 EDT WASHINGTON (AP) - Preliminary anthrax tests on some 120 White House mail sorters turned up no sign of exposure to the bacteria on Wednesday. President Bush said he's confident that the people inside the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are not in danger.

``There have been no results that have come back with a positive measure of anthrax,'' White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said, reporting on the screens done so far on about 120 of the 200 workers who have had contact with potentially contaminated White House mail.

Those being tested work at a remote, Secret Service-controlled facility across the Potomac River on property shared by the Anacostia Naval Station and Bolling Air Force Base. Although officials say they are confident no tainted mail actually reached the White House complex, workers at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House were also tested.

``We're making sure that the West Wing, the White House is safe,'' the president said Tuesday after a trace of anthrax was found on a machine that opens White House mail at the screening facility several miles away.

That offsite facility at Bolling was shut down Tuesday morning.

Between three and eight workers on loan from the U.S. Postal Service had access to that contaminated machine where a trace amount - anywhere from 20 to 500 spores - of anthrax was found, a senior law enforcement official said.

At least 8,000 spores must be inhaled into the lungs to get the most deadly form of anthrax. Substantially fewer spores can cause the highly treatable cutaneous form of anthrax if they enter a cut in the skin.

Asked if he was tested for the germ that has killed three people already this month, or if he was taking precautionary antibiotics, Bush replied simply: ``I don't have anthrax.''

At least some White House personnel were given Cipro six weeks ago. White House officials won't discuss that, or who might be receiving the anthrax-treating antibiotic now.

``If the White House were to start to reveal the security measures including health protections that are in place for the president ... people who would want to do harm to the president would know what protections are in place and therefore they could shift their tactics,'' Fleischer said.

On the night of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House Medical Office dispensed Cipro to staff accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney as he was secreted off to the safety of Camp David, and told them it was a precaution, according to one person directly involved.

At that time, nobody could guess the dimensions of the terrorists' plot.

Now, Bush said on Tuesday, ``There's no question that the evildoers are continuing to try to harm America and Americans.''

Regular biohazard testing inside the White House had been stepped up after last month's attacks and, as of Tuesday afternoon, found no traces of anthrax, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Security officials were apparently spooked even before Tuesday's discovery at Bolling, which handles mail processed through Washington's Brentwood postal facility, and halted mail delivery to the White House complex several days earlier.

``We have not seen mail in a while,'' said a West Wing aide. A staffer on campus at Bolling, in southeast Washington, said the same was true there.

Two postal workers at Brentwood died of pulmonary anthrax - one on Sunday, the other on Monday.

Brentwood is where the anthrax-tainted letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was processed before delivery.

In a statement, the Secret Service said no one connected with the mail facility at Bolling has reported anthraxlike symptoms.

Postal and health officials have said it's possible for one anthrax-tainted letter to contaminate another, meaning the anthrax found on the Bolling machinery could have come from a letter that mixed with other mail at Brentwood.

Experts believe it unlikely that a cross-contaminated letter would have contained enough anthrax to make someone sick. - By SANDRA SOBIERAJ Associated Press Writer [archived at The Dossier]

Official: CIA uses anthrax, but no link to letters

December 16, 2001 - WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA uses anthrax in its bio-warfare program but the bacteria did not make it into tainted letters sent to two U.S. senators and several news organizations, an agency official said Sunday.

The confirmation that the CIA has anthrax comes less than a week after the U.S. Army admitted it has produced small amounts of the potentially deadly bacteria for years.

But, just as Army officials denied any connection to the anthrax letters, a CIA official said the anthrax detected in letters sent earlier this fall "absolutely did not" come from CIA labs.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the FBI is focusing its anthrax investigation on a contractor who worked with the CIA. The newspaper said the contractor may be the source of the "Ames strain" of anthrax found in letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, NBC News' anchor Tom Brokaw and several other news organizations. But the CIA official, while confirming the agency has small amounts of the Ames strain for testing purposes, told CNN "we did not grow, create or produce" the anthrax in the letters, and "we are not the source of this material."

Meanwhile, experts continued Sunday to fumigate the Hart Senate Office building, closed since aides in Daschle's office opened a letter filled with anthrax spores on October 17.

"This was very serious anthrax, very highly milled and very dangerous," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said Sunday. "This certainly has been a tougher decontamination job than anybody expected."

The FBI is looking for someone or some group who began sending anthrax-laced letters through the mail in mid-September. Five people have died in recent months of inhalation anthrax, including three postal or mail-room employees. - David Ensor CNN Washington Bureau

Suspect worked in U.S. lab

The FBI's search for the person who mailed anthrax-laced letters that killed five persons has focused on a former U.S. scientist who worked at a government laboratory where he learned how to make a weapons-grade strain of the deadly bacteria.

Law enforcement authorities and leading biochemical experts familiar with the FBI's five-month investigation said agents targeted the unidentified scientist after extensive interviews with more than 300 persons associated with the government's anthrax program, although no charges have yet been filed. The scientist was identified from a pool of about 50 researchers known to have the technical ability to produce the sophisticated weapons-grade anthrax strain found in the letters sent to Florida, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., the sources said.

The FBI has known for more than three months that the person responsible for sending the letters was a U.S. citizen and, according to the sources, probably a former scientist connected to the government's biodefense program.

The government's chief suspect, the sources said, is believed to have worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., which has maintained stores of weapons-grade anthrax - commonly known as the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis.

The sources said the former scientist is now employed as a contractor in the Washington area.

The unidentified scientist, according to the sources, was twice fired from government jobs and, after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,000 people, reportedly made a threat to use anthrax.

He has been interviewed by FBI agents on several occasions, according to the sources, and his house has been searched. The sources said that while numerous chemicals were located inside the house, no anthrax was found.

The FBI investigation, according to the sources, began to focus on current and former U.S. scientists after the anthrax found in letters sent to the Capitol Hill offices of Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont matched a finely powdered strain of the bacteria held at Fort Detrick.

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a microbiologist at State University of New York who heads the biological arms-control panel for the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), said that the FBI has been working on a "short list of suspects" for some time, and that agents had narrowed the list to "a particular person ... a member of the biochemical community."

"It has taken a long time for the FBI to identify any suspects in this case, and I don't know why, considering that the person responsible for this comes from a very narrow list of people who have the necessary skill to do what was done," she said. "But there is a common suspect, and the FBI has questioned that person more than once."

Mrs. Rosenberg said she and several colleagues have wondered whether the FBI's failure to bring charges in the case is related to government reluctance to publicly acknowledge its biochemical operation.

"Is the FBI dragging its feet? I just don't know. And, if so, I don't know why," she said.

The FBI has consistently maintained that the anthrax investigation is on track, and that thousands of leads have been pursued by a task force of investigators under the direction of FBI Assistant Director Van Harp, who heads the bureau's D.C. field office, and Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth C. Weaver. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Postal Service has identified any potential suspects.

In a letter last month to the 40,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology, Mr. Harp said it was "very likely that one or more of you know this individual."

"A review of the information to date in this matter leads investigators to believe that a single person is most likely responsible for these mailings," he said. "This person is experienced working in a laboratory. Based on his or her selection of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis, one would expect this individual has or had legitimate access to select biological agents at some time."

In the letter, Mr. Harp also said the suspect had the technical knowledge and expertise to produce a "highly refined and deadly product," and that he or she may have "used off-hours in a laboratory or may have even established an improvised or concealed facility comprised of sufficient equipment to produce the anthrax."

The anthrax found by investigators in the Daschle and Leahy letters was described as "weaponized," meaning it consisted of fine particles treated to eliminate static charge - preventing them from clumping and allowing them to float in the air.

According to the sources, an extraordinary concentration of spores was identified in the anthrax tested in the letters and that the purity of the bacteria was characteristic of that made at U.S. laboratories. They said the tested anthrax was unmilled, also characteristic of anthrax manufactured at U.S. laboratories. A sampling of anthrax from the Daschle letter, they said, contained a form of silica used at U.S. laboratories. The sample did not contain bentonite, which is used by foreign laboratories, including Iraq, they said.

The government has offered a $2.5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for sending the letters. The five persons who died were Florida photography editor Robert Stevens, 63; U.S. postal workers Thomas Lee Morris, 55, and Joseph P. Curseen, 47, both of whom worked at the Brentwood facility in Northeast; Kathy Nyugen, a 61-year-old female hospital stockroom employee in New York; and Ottilie W. Lundgren, a 94-year-old woman from Connecticut.

All the deaths were traced to the Ames strain of the bacteria, first isolated in Iowa and maintained by the U.S. Army since 1980 for testing purposes. By Jerry Seper THE WASHINGTON TIMES [archived at the Dossier]

Flashback: US anthrax attacks linked to army biological weapons plant

The anthrax spores enclosed in envelopes mailed to two leading Senate Democrats in October are biologically identical to bacteria secretly manufactured at a US germ warfare facility during the last decade, according to press reports and an analysis by a leading microbiologist.

The army biological and chemical warfare unit at the Dugway Proving Ground, about 80 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, may well be the source of the weapons-grade anthrax sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Scientists at Dugway grew and processed spores deriving from the Ames strainthe strain that appeared in all the letters sent to media outlets and Congress.

The spores had been carefully milled to produce the size most effective in spreading the deadly bacteria, between one and three microns.

The existence of the secret army program was first revealed by the Baltimore Sun in an article published December 12. Until then, US officials, including those investigating the anthrax attacks, had maintained that the American military stopped producing germ warfare materials in the late 1960s, before the signing of an international treaty banning the development of such weapons.

Pentagon spokesmen now claim that the development of weapons-grade anthrax was legal under the treaty because the production of small quantities is permitted for peaceful and protective purposes, i.e., to prepare countermeasures to a germ warfare attack. The United States is the only country that is known to have produced weapons-grade anthrax in the past 25 years.

While the Dugway facility produced the dried anthrax spores, they were sometimes sent to another germ warfare unit at Fort Detrick, near Frederick, Maryland, only 30 miles from Washington, DC. Fort Detrick has equipment for killing bacteria with radiation, and received shipments of the anthrax to be sterilized so it would be safer to work on. The most recent shipment from Dugway to Fort Detrick was last June 27, the Sun reported. The spores were returned to Dugway on September 4, one week before the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, and four weeks before the first anthrax cases were detected in south Florida. - WSWS

Report: U.S. Expert Believed Behind Anthrax Attacks

BERLIN (Reuters) - The anthrax attacks in the United States were probably the work of a member of a U.S. biological warfare program, the magazine of environment pressure group Greenpeace Germany reported Wednesday.

The magazine said its article was based on information from a U.S. delegation source at the United Nations (news - web sites) biological weapons conference in Geneva that began last week. The attacks have killed five people.

``The U.S. delegation believe it is an inside job. ... Their members also have more information than has been made public,'' Kirsten Brodde, a reporter for the magazine, told Reuters.

The magazine said: ``It seems the attacker ... wanted to force through an increase in the budget for U.S. research on biological weapons.'' It speculated that the attacker, who used anthrax-laced mail, had probably wanted to cause panic rather than kill anyone.

U.S. investigators have still not determined who was behind the attacks, but Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) has signaled the authorities were inclined to believe they had a domestic source.

The attacks occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington and prompted initial accusations by President Bush (news - web sites) that Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) may been responsible.

Asked about the magazine article, an FBI (news - web sites) spokesman reiterated that investigators were pursuing a number of leads but no arrests appeared imminent.

A spokesman for the U.S. delegation in Geneva said he did not have any information about the article.

The magazine is linked to the environmental lobby group and shares its offices, but said it is financially and editorially independent. Yahoo news archived at The Dossier

Flashback Anthrax attacks linked to Iraq in US press

Iraq 'behind US anthrax outbreaks'

American investigators probing anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York believe they have all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack - and have named Iraq as prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores. Their inquiries are adding to what US hawks say is a growing mass of evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved, possibly indirectly, with the 11 September hijackers. If investigators' fears are confirmed - and sceptics fear American hawks could be publicising the claim to press their case for strikes against Iraq - the pressure now building among senior Pentagon and White House officials in Washington for an attack may become irresistible. Plans have been discussed among Pentagon strategists for US air strike support for armed insurrections against Saddam by rebel Kurds in the north and Shia Muslims in the south with a promise of American ground troops to protect the oilfields of Basra. Guardian

The earliest mention I can find of "Huda Ammash" and "anthrax" in the same Web page via Google is from May 5. Even a simple search for "Mrs. Anthrax" fails to turn up much before May 5, much less news stories specifically referring to Ammash as "Mrs. Anthrax". Even removing the "." from behind "Mrs" fails to get anything earlier than May 5.

If anyone can find an earlier reference to Ammash as "Mrs Anthrax" I'd love to hear about it. Until that time, though, I'm thinking the worst: that the Administration or some neoconservative or generic hawk planted the term "Mrs Anthrax" as a way of linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks on the United States that occurred after September 11. President Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and others have already worked very hard to link September 11 with Iraq in the public mind so succesfully, in fact, that more than 60% of Americans believe such a link exists, despite the complete lack of evidence and I've certainly heard many people argue (years ago, at least) that there was a link between the anthrax attacks and Iraq. - Creating a Link Without the Link: Mrs Anthrax

16 December 2001: 'I didn't know it was possible to feel so bad'

14 December 2001: Anthrax find at US embassy in Vienna

22 November 2001: FBI investigates anthrax death of woman aged 94

10 November 2001: FBI doubts bin Laden is behind anthrax

1 November 2001: New York woman dies of anthrax

19 October 2001: TV newsreaders have become prime targets

16 October 2001: Anthrax letter sent to Senate leader, baby tests positive

5 October 2001: Pleas for calm in Florida as Briton catches anthrax

CIA links Porton Down to anthrax attacks

(Filed: 17/12/2001) - THE FBI is concentrating its hunt for the source of the anthrax used to terrorise America on laboratories used by the CIA and British government scientists.

Only five laboratories, including the defence science and technology laboratories at Porton Down, Salisbury, have been found to have spores of anthrax identical to the bacteria sent through the post to two Democratic senators and news organisations in New York and Florida.

But frustrated FBI agents say they have not been able to find enough information about security at Porton Down - one of the most secretive establishments in Britain - to decide whether it could be the source of the terrorists' anthrax.

Another focus of the FBI inquiry is the CIA, which has been conducting experiments on anthrax in the interests of defence from germ warfare.

Both Porton Down, directly, and the CIA, indirectly, received their samples of the particular anthrax spores used in the attacks from the US army medical research institute of infectious diseases at Fort Detrick, about 50 miles north of Washington.

Sources in the FBI said the CIA was under investigation because of the bureau's "interest" in a contractor which used to work for the agency in its anthrax project.

The FBI believes the attacks, which have killed five people, to be the work of a domestic terrorist, although they have not ruled out links with Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'eda network. - By Ben Fenton for the telegraph

Porton Down??? hmmm...

Dr David C Kelly

The 'suicided' scientist was an ex- Porton Down expert in microbiology, and was regularly meeting with the BBCs Susan Watts... amongst others

Flashback: March 29, 2003 - Mrs Anthrax used to justify Iraq invasion

Iraq's 'Mrs Anthrax' sits with Saddam

Source: The Times (London)- THE only woman at Saddam Hussein's leadership table looks self-possessed and almost demure, sitting with her head covered and hands folded neatly in front of her. US intelligence officers call her Mrs Anthrax.

The appearance of Baghdad's reputed germ warfare expert, Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, on Iraqi television on Thursday sent a chill down collective spines in Washington and London.

US officials studying Saddam's appearances wondered yesterday why she was shown sitting three seats away from him, complete with military epaulettes, the well-groomed face of Iraq's biological weapons programme. They are already trying to absorb the discovery of 3,000 Iraqi chemical and biological weapons suits and masks at a hospital in al-Nasiriyah that had been used by Iraqi paramilitaries.

US officials believe that Dr Ammash, who earned a PhD in microbiology at an American university and was appointed to Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council in May 2001, helped to rebuild Iraq's bioweapons programme in the mid-1990s, As the camera panned repeatedly past her face, it seemed as if Baghdad wanted to send a warning to the US and British forces.

"Mrs Anthrax" learnt some of her apparently deadly science at the University of Missouri, where her 1983 doctorate focused on the poisoning effects of radiation, paraquat and adrimycin, a chemotherapy drug, on bacteria and mammals, a university official said.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Minister, says meanwhile that US-British forces now have categorical evidence that Saddam is ready to use weapons of mass destruction. - source

Flashback: May 2003 - Mrs Anthrax captured

A top Iraqi scientist believed to have worked on biological-weapons programs was detained in central Iraq Monday, senior Defense officials said.

Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash was in U.S. custody, officials said, but they cited conflicting accounts on whether she had surrendered or was captured. Ammash was No. 53 on the list of 55 most-wanted officials from Saddam Hussein's deposed government.

Ammash was Iraq's leading microbial genetic engineer, U.S. officials said. She is believed to have been instrumental in secretly rebuilding Iraq's bio-warfare capabilities in the mid-1990s while she headed a biological laboratory at the Military Industrial Commission, which helped coordinate Saddam's clandestine weapons programs.

"The world is a safer place because she's off the streets," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ammash is the fifth senior official from Iraq's weapons program in U.S. custody. She has been dubbed "Mrs. Anthrax" in the media for her alleged involvement in programs to produce lethal biological agents.

"She is definitely knowledgeable about Iraq's biological-warfare program, both in terms of the nature and extent of the program and in terms of where facilities and materials might be located," the official added.

U.S. intelligence agencies have tracked Ammash since the early 1990s, the official said, although she had little public notoriety until she appeared in a video released during the war that showed her as the only woman at a meeting with Saddam and his aides. The purpose of the meeting was never explained, and it is not clear when it occurred. - source

Anthrax treatment may be deadly

By STEVE MITCHELL Senior Medical Correspondent WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Preliminary studies obtained by United Press International show serious and potential life-threatening problems with a potential anthrax treatment the U.S. government is developing.

Anthrax immune globulin, which the government is developing as a possible treatment in the event of a bioterror attack, protects animals from death if given prior to exposure to toxins from Bacillus anthracis, the anthrax bacterium, but if the compound is formulated incorrectly it can be fatal and it did not prevent death when given after exposure. Some anthrax immune globulin, or AIG, already may have been placed in the Strategic National Stockpile for emergency use, but at least one expert warned that the research data show the compound does not appear to be effective and actually could kill people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta initiated the animal studies last year, and the Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded a contract to Cangene, a Canadian biotech company, for approximately $428,000 to supply 10 grams of AIG for further testing. HHS researchers have been given a year to finish the studies and decide if the government should order up to 100,000 doses.

The government is interested in developing AIG as an alternative anthrax treatment due to the high mortality rate from the 2001 anthrax letters that killed five people. The death rate was 45 percent, even when intensive-care treatment and antibiotics were administered, and future bioterror attacks could involve anthrax that has been genetically engineered to evade current antibiotics, the CDC noted in its report on the animal studies.

The CDC published a notice in June in the Federal Register that the results of the studies were available, but the agency, for reasons it has not explained, delayed sending the results to UPI until this week -- more than four months after the Federal Register notice and several weeks after HHS awarded the contract to Cangene. The biotech firm, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said it was not involved in the animal studies and would not be involved in the additional studies being conducted by HHS.

CDC spokesman Dave Daigle requested that UPI e-mail him questions about the studies, but then did not respond with comment. "Obviously they can't use this stuff," said Dr. Meryl Nass, an anthrax expert and a physician in Bar Harbor, Maine, adding she would become concerned if officials tried to use it on an emergency basis in the event of another anthrax attack.

"It might kill people," Nass told UPI.

AIG is obtained from the plasma of soldiers who have been inoculated with the anthrax vaccine, which has had a controversial history. The military requires all servicemen to receive the vaccination, but some have objected because they claimed it caused chronic health problems, including dizziness, muscle and joint pain and sleep disruption. Others have said the vaccine may have played a role in causing Gulf War Syndrome. Federal officials, including some in the military, have insisted the vaccine is safe.

In the AIG studies, rats that received a high-enough dose of the compound prior to being injected with anthrax "were completely protected," concluded the CDC report -- which does not cite the names of the researchers who wrote it. The animals survived until the end of the study, which lasted 48 hours.

AIG administered after exposure to anthrax may not confer much protection, however. Rats that received the compound 5, 10 or 20 minutes after being injected with anthrax died within approximately three hours. Only those given AIG immediately after the anthrax injection survived the entire 48-hour study period.

Nass said a study period of 48 hours was short and "very odd." With most animals, it takes a few days before they die from anthrax, so this raises the question whether the rats that were alive after 48 hours would have continued to survive if the study had gone on longer, she said. Nass also questioned the rationale for administering AIG only up until 20 minutes after the anthrax exposure.

"That means it doesn't work," she said. "You're never going to give it to a human that fast." Under real-life conditions, a person probably would not become aware of the exposure and the need for treatment lasting a day or two, she said.

The CDC studies also indicate AIG can be deadly under certain circumstances. A separate experiment in rabbits found that a high dose was fatal in all the animals the received it. "Since there were deaths among 100 percent of rabbits receiving 40 mg/kg AIG intravenously ... a thorough safety evaluation has been initiated," the report stated.

The investigators determined the likely problem was a change in formulation of AIG. The concentration had been doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent for the rabbit study. This was done to increase the potency of the compound and to reduce the amount needed to protect the animals. "Evidence suggests that this likely clogged the renal tubules, causing an acute toxic nephropathy (acute tubular necrosis) that was seen on necropsy in the dead rabbits," the CDC team concluded in the study.

The problem appeared to be the higher concentration of AIG combined with the fact that it was prepared in a freeze-dried formulation meant it required more time to dissolve into solution. A less-concentrated dose of AIG still may cause problems, however. In one study, all four animals that received a less-concentrated formula "experienced rapid breathing and (one of the four) experienced diarrhea," the report noted.

The final sentence of the report said the CDC decided that switching the AIG formulation to a 5 percent liquid version may avert some of the dangers of the compound, and the agency "is currently planning animal studies to evaluate AIG dosage and efficacy."

The report does not mention whether those studies ever were conducted or what the results were. John Langstaff, president of Cangene, told UPI his company recently shipped a supply of AIG to the CDC, which "still has some ongoing activities."

The HHS studies of AIG involve "testing to see if it's safe," Langstaff said. Cangene was not participating in those studies, but the company would be involved in human clinical trials if HHS elects to pursue development of AIG, he said.

- upi.com


Captain Wardrobes

Down with Murder inc.