--- "Robert J. Bradbury" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Reuters is reporting that unnamed but potentially
informed sources suspect the Anthrax attacks were
caused by someone within the U.S. biological warfare
program who wanted to get funding increased.
I recall not so long ago the announcement of the
sequencing of the genome of E. coli. Bacterial
genomes are, as I understand it, quite short, and with
the huge leaps in the speed with which genomes can be
read, it would seem likely that the ability to rapidly
read a bacterial genome is now nearly routine.
Consequently, it should not only be possible to
identify the anthrax in question as being of the Ames
variety, but to "fingerprint" the particular sample
and thereby determine with a far greater degree of
specificity where it came from, and when, and what's
been done with it since and for how long.
For example, if the anthrax spores were taken from a
certain stockpile, stored for a while, and then sent
out in letters, the genomes of both the unactivated
spores and the live bacteria in infected persons would
show a certain degree of similarity to the original
If on the other hand, the spores in the letters were
derived from second or third generation cultures of
the original source, the genome might record that in
the accumulation of mutations, which as I understand
it, takes place at a given rate over time. Also, the
exact nature of the mutations might reveal something
about the method used to culture the bacteria, since
the culture media would likely act as a selection
mechanism favoring certain bacterial variants over
Also, with spores numbering in the millions(billions?)
there might be additional information to be derived
from statistical analysis.
Robert is the pro on this, mayhaps he'll comment.
Meanwhile, I'm gonna go check to see if my health
insurance covers blunt trauma injury.
Best, Jeff Davis
"Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:23 MDT