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TIGR Anthrax Research May Yield Origin of Letter Anthrax

NEW YORK, Jan. 22 - Researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research have identified genetic differences between a sample of Ames strain anthrax and the anthrax found in tainted letters last fall, The New York Times reports on Tuesday.


The information may help investigators determine the source of the bacteria if they can successfully match this variant with one of many samples gathered from laboratories worldwide.


An unnamed law enforcement official is quoted in the newspaper saying that this analysis "might give us the edge" in the investigation, though he also cautioned that the work was not yet finished.


Other researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other labs have created a marker-based fingerprinting test in order to positively identify the source of the bacteria, but those efforts have not yet been successful in differentiating between different strains of anthrax, the paper reports.


TIGR is supplying its new marker data to Northern Arizona University microbiologist Paul Keim, who has been analyzing samples of the microbe at the request of federal investigators.


Several other researchers expressed doubt in the article that TIGR's markers will prove to be reliable and accurate way to differentiate between strains of anthrax, since that goal has so far frustrated other geneticists studying the microbe.