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Anthrax - Trail of terror

frequently, as often as once in every 1000 cell divisions.

By comparing the amount of mutation, says Smith, "you can say with a high degree of confidence how many bacterial generations separate an unknown strain from closely related reference strains". Looking at which bits of DNA have changed can also pinpoint the exact strain the unknown anthrax came from.

And that's not all. A small batch of anthrax will undergo many fewer cell divisions than a big batch. It's possible that the analysis could reveal whether the anthrax came from a 50-litre fermenter of the kind Project Bacchus obtained or the huge vats of a state-sponsored bioweapons facility. That could reveal how big an operation the attackers had--and whether we must expect yet more attacks.


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Contact: Claire Bowles
claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk
44-207-331-2751
New Scientist
25-Oct-2001


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