Feb 10, 2009 | 1
The U.S. Army has halted research on most germs at the same biodefense lab fingered as the source of the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings, after discovering that some of the pathogens stored in its refrigerators and freezers aren’t listed in its database.
Col. John P. Skvorak, commander of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, ordered the suspension Friday. The shutdown could last up to three months as investigators attempt to get to the bottom of the questionable inventory, and will affect "most or much" of the research projects at the lab, where government scientists study drugs and vaccines that could be used to make biological weapons, a lab spokesperson, Caree Vander Linden, tells ScientificAmerican.com. The blog ScienceInsider was the first to report the story and yesterday posted the memo from Skvorak ordering the review.
Jan 5, 2009 | 3
The trail that led to Bruce Ivins as the prime suspect in the 2001 deadly anthrax mailings ended when the government scientist died of a drug overdose in July as the FBI prepared to arrest him for the attacks. Six months later, the New York Times has published what it touted as "the deepest look so far at the investigation" of his role in the attacks based on interviewed with Ivins's friends, colleagues, anthrax experts and law enforcement officers involved in the probe.
The most surprising revelation: the long string of clues that Ivins, who worked in the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), left behind dismissed by FBI agents trying to track the source of anthrax that killed five people, sickened 17 others and caused panic at a time when the wounds of the September 11 terrorist attacks were still fresh.
Dec 2, 2008 | 2
As India picks up the pieces of last week's deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai, a congressional study warns of a possible bioterror strike in the U.S. by 2013.
In fact, biological weapons–anthrax, Ebola, influenza, and other pathogens–are more likely than nuclear weapons to be used to initiate the attack, according to CNN, which obtained an early copy of the study, which officially released today by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, chair of the panel created earlier this year to probe the possibility of terrorist hits in the U.S., told CNN that if such an attack were to occur, it would be "9/11 times 10 or a hundred in terms of the number of people who would be killed."
Nov 26, 2008 | 3
Court documents unsealed yesterday provide insight into why federal lawmakers had trouble fingering the person they believe to be the true culprit in the 2001 anthrax mailings and wrongly suspected government scientist Steven Hatfill of the attacks that took five lives and sickened 17 other people. The nearly seven-year investigation culminated with the apparent suicide in August of fellow scientist Bruce Ivins, 62, who once worked with Hatfill at a federal biodefense research lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland and who reportedly took a fatal overdose of pills as FBI agents had planned to arrest him for the crime.
Hatfill, 54, who claimed to be the victim of repeated leaks of investigation details to the media that implicated him as law enforcement's prime suspect in the mailings, in June won a $5.8 million lawsuit in which he charged that the FBI and Justice Department had violated his privacy rights.
Oct 29, 2008 | 1
Worried environmentalists charge that a new biodefense lab opening in Texas next month, smack in the middle of a hurricane zone, may not be able to withstand the strongest of storms.
The Galveston National Laboratory, set to open on Nov. 11, suffered only minor flooding in its lobby while under construction during September's Hurricane Ike; most of the other buildings on the island were more heavily damaged, The New York Times reports today.
But critics say Ike, a Category 2 storm with 100-mile- (161-kilometer-) per-hour winds, may not be the toughest test faced by the lab, where scientists will study deadly, contagious viruses including Ebola and Marburg — both hemorrhagic fevers that cause victims to bleed to death. In 1900, more than 8,000 people were killed in the Galveston area by a hurricane.
Oct 2, 2008
When letters laced with anthrax-inducing spores were sent out seven years ago, U.S. Postal Service workers found themselves on the front lines of the attack. In Washington, D.C., alone, four workers at a mail-processing center developed inhalation anthrax, and two died. Federal investigators ended up testing 36 postal facilities in the D.C. area (including one where the two postal workers died), finding spores at 15 of them.
In case of another bioterrorist attack, the feds want to protect citizens with the help of letter carriers. Toward that end Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt this week announced that during this type of emergency they will give kits to mail carriers (containing small quantities of the antibiotic doxycycline for use by them and other members of their households during an anthrax emergency) if they volunteer to deliver the same kits to potential victims on their delivery routes.
Aug 1, 2008 | 3
Little more than a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, the nation was shaken by a new wave of attacks. Five people died--and 17 more people were sickened by--anthrax (an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium) sent to unwitting residents, reporters and government officials. Nearly seven years later, a microbiologist has died of an apparent drug overdose as prosecutors prepared to charge him in connection with the mailings.
Bruce Ivins, 62, who for the past 18 years worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), a federal biodefense research laboratory Fort Detrick in Maryland, died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting massive amounts of prescription Tylenol with codeine. The Washington Post reports that the feds had alerted him that they planned to charge him with bioterrorism and were considering whether to seek the death penalty in the event of a conviction.
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