Scientists link anthrax spores to Texan cow

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The Independent US

A cow that died in Texas in 1981 has been positively identified as the original source of the anthrax spores used in the terrorist attacks in America last year which killed five people, according to a study published today.

A cow that died in Texas in 1981 has been positively identified as the original source of the anthrax spores used in the terrorist attacks in America last year which killed five people, according to a study published today.

Scientists said that although the anthrax used in the letter attacks belonged to the Ames strain – named after a town in Iowa – it originated in a cattle-rearing region of the south Texas plains.

A detailed analysis of the genetic sequence of the anthrax used in the first attack on a Florida newspaper office has revealed it is identical to the strain which has been disseminated to laboratories in America and other parts of the world, including the biological defence establishment at Porton Down in Wiltshire.

The researchers who carried out the study said the technique might now be used as a forensic tool to compare the anthrax used in the attack with samples held in various laboratories.

Sequencing the genome of the anthrax and comparing it with other laboratory strains may lead to identifying the person who sent the letters laced with anthrax spores, said Timothy Read, assistant investigator at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, and lead author of the study published in the journal Science.

It is suspected the culprit has worked in one of the American laboratories and has the expertise to refine spores into the fine powder inhaled by victims.

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