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"Anthrax buried for good"

Colin Davidson cabd2 at biotech.cam.ac.uk
Mon Mar 24 04:51:15 EST 2003


"Lesley Robertson" <l.a.robertson at tnw.tudelft.nl> wrote in message
news:b5mib3$dd8$1 at news.tudelft.nl...

> The good folk of Dundee University sorted out the UK's anthrax-infected
> island, Gruinard) nearly 10 years ago. If I remember correctly,
formaldehyde
> was effective.
> However, this means nothing - Bacillus anthracis is a common soil organism
> in many parts of the world, and most of the people who contract the most
> usual skin infections get better with very little medical assistance. The
> common name for the infection is sheep sorter's disease.  It's when it
gets
> into the lungs that it's most dangerous. However, it's not that
infectious -
> think about what happened in the USA last year. The beautifully termed
> "weapons grade" anthrax was blowing around buildings for a week or more
and
> yet very few people were actually infected. More people were killed on the
> roads during that period.
> The chief value of anthrax as a weapon seems to be in the fear it
inspires.
> If people stopped playing with it to make it MORE effective, things would,
> of course, be a lot better.
> Lesley Robertson

I disagree.

The so called 'weapons grade' anthrax produced in that incident wasn't all
that well weaponised; compare the samples with those produced by Soviet
scientists during the cold war (see Alibecks book, 'Biohazard') and you'll
see that this 'weapons grade' material was nothing of the sort.

It was also released at in tiny, tiny samples during that incident, and it
over a large area. Released in more bulk, in the right grade, at the right
time, and a bioterrorist would accomplish a lot more than just a little
panic.

Thankfully, to make so much material safely isn't easy; I should imagine
that most cottage industry bioterrorists would be most likely to kill
themselves in the process.





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