Skip to comments.Anthrax investigation still yielding findings[Bruce Ivins]
Posted on 02/26/2009 6:32:39 AM PST by BGHater
Chemical composition of spores doesn't match suspect flask.
The deadly bacterial spores mailed to victims in the US anthrax attacks, scientists say, share a chemical 'fingerprint' that is not found in bacteria from the flask linked to Bruce Ivins, the biodefence researcher implicated in the crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleges that Ivins, who committed suicide last July, was the person responsible for mailing letters laden with Bacillus anthracis to news media and congressional offices in 2001, killing five people and sickening 17. The FBI used genetic analyses to trace the mailed spores back to a flask called RMR-1029, which Ivins could access in his laboratory at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland.
At a biodefence meeting on 24 February, Joseph Michael, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, presented analyses of three letters sent to the New York Post and to the offices of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Spores from two of those show a distinct chemical signature that includes silicon, oxygen, iron, and tin; the third letter had silicon, oxygen, iron and possibly also tin, says Michael. Bacteria from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask did not contain any of those four elements.
Two cultures of the same anthrax strain grown using similar processes one from Ivins' lab, the other from a US Army facility in Utah showed the silicon-oxygen signature but did not contain tin or iron. Michael presented the analyses at the American Society for Microbiology's Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.
The chemical mismatch doesn't necessarily mean that deadly spores used in the attacks did not originate from Ivins' RMR-1029 flask, says Jason Bannan, a microbiologist and forensic examiner at the FBI's Chemical Biological Sciences Unit in Quantico, Virginia. The RMR-1029 culture was created in 1997, and the mailed spores could have been taken out of that flask and grown under different conditions, resulting in varying chemical contents. "It doesn't surprise me that it would be different," he says.
The data suggest that spores for the three letters were grown using the same process, says Michael. It is not clear how tin and iron made their way into the culture, he says. Bannan suggests that the growth medium may have contained iron and tin may have come from a water source. Hard to tell apart
The meeting offered scientists who collaborated with the FBI during the investigation an opportunity to share detailed data. The analyses will eventually be published in peer-reviewed journals, the FBI has said.
Jacques Ravel, a genomics scientist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, described his team's efforts to find genetic differences between various cultures of the Ames strain, the B. anthracis strain identified in the anthrax letters. At first, the team was surprised to find that the DNA sequences of a reference Ames strain and Ames samples from the investigation, such as bacteria isolated from the spinal fluid of the first victim, were exactly the same. "It was kind of a shock," says Ravel.
For help, the researchers turned to variants found by a team at USAMRIID. Patricia Worsham and her colleagues had noticed differences in shape, colour and rate of spore formation even within a single anthrax culture. Ravel's team identified the genetic mutations associated with four variants and developed an assay for one of them, called Morph E. Researchers at Commonwealth Biotechnologies in Richmond, Virginia, and the Midwest Research Institute's Florida Division in Palm Bay created assays for three other variants.
The FBI then used that arsenal of tests to pin down the origins of the anthrax letters, matching the mix of genetic variants in the mailed spores to Ivins' RMR-1029 flask. "It has the genetic signatures that identify it as the most likely source of the growth," says Bannan.
Ravel also sequenced the genome of a Bacillus subtilis strain that was found in one of the letters. That sample did not match a B. subtilis strain found in Ivins' lab, says Bannan, but the bacterial contamination still could have come from somewhere else in Ivins' institution.
The FBI has asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to convene an independent panel of experts to review the anthrax investigation data. The academy is still in the process of drawing up a contract with the FBI that lays out an agreement to perform the study, says NAS spokeswoman Christine Stencel.
Thomas DeGonia, Ivins' lawyer at Venable LLP in Rockville, Maryland, maintains Ivins' innocence.
“Thomas DeGonia, Ivins’ lawyer at Venable LLP in Rockville, Maryland, maintains Ivins’ innocence.”
Then why did he commit suicide?
Innocent people don’t do that.
They strive to have their name CLEARED.
Everybody is different. Each person has a breaking point.
He killed himself, however, I trust a person over our Gov’t.
Has anyone put forward a theory explaining why Ivins might have done it? What motivation did he have?
I really don’t know what to think about this case. On one hand Ivins appears to have been a little loopy. On the other hand I’m skeptical when the defense is no longer around to defend himself.
The first cases turned up ten miles from where Muhammed Atta was living at the time. Nobody should need to be Albert Einstein to figure this one out. The only four nations which ever had such capabilities are the US, England, Russia, and Iraq and the first three of those would have simply killed Atta et. al. had they been stupid enough to walk up and ask for it. Saddam Hussein and nobody else is responsible for those anthrax attacks.
His killing himself was by no means necessarily a sign of guilt. He was apparently a great teacher and a fine scientist, but obviously a little tightly wrapped; he had seen what other people who had been accused of this had been put through, and I think he simply didn’t feel he could endure seeing his life and reputation trashed by the Federal Government.
This whole accusation has looked like a set-up from day one.
He wouldn’t have been the first innocent person to commit suicide amist a laundry list of allegations which could ruin careers and home life.
I don’t recall him having a motive, however Atta & Co. sure did.
Not that I have any inside info, but I never believed he had anything to do with it. It’s just too “Richard Jewel Atlanta bombing” and we all know how that ruined Jewel’s life all for not.
Now, what did they find in the Florida samples?
BTW, worth thinking about ~ carrying "samples" around in an old Mason jar with a cast iron lid. Also, batteries ~ lithium battery with a tin-iron alloy negative (empty of lithium of course). Something to smuggle it in. Something to smuggle it out. Something to be beyond detection on a plane flight from Iraq to Florida?
The possibilities are endless on this one.
Some editor at Nature magazine evidently wanted to sensationalize their report on the ASM meeting by creating headlines with distorted facts.
A LOT of VERY important information came out in the ASM meeting. Check my web site for details.
On my web site I list 20 facts pointing to Dr. Ivins guilt. The ASM meeting added fact #8 to the list. Here it is:
8. Investigators examined another flask of Ames anthrax spores created by Dr. Ivins for his own use in his work and found that the spores in flask RMR-1030 contained silicon similar to what was in the attack spores, but not in exactly identical quantities.
It’s Nature News, not Nature, but thanks for posting.
It was convenient that the media labeled it, or whoever, a suicide.
It is significant that those who worked with him are still defending him.
What they are talking about here is easily lost in translation.
The spore coat is correlated to how that particular spore was raised or exposed.
The next generation would not have the same coat as it is shed when the spore germinates.
I’ve always wondered if this wasn’t brought into the country in a woman’s makeup case. How many little jars do they keep in those highly guarded little cases? Tin and iron so common for the lids. But I’m not so sure that just exposure to a lid would cause such a signature.
Seems like the media would be the source of the metals.
Say people as Nature, part of NPG.