Symposium explores microbial forensics and the investigation of biocrimes

February 16, 2003--Denver, CO--September 11 and the events of October 2001 have focused attention on the threat posed by criminals that may use biological pathogens to do harm--and how to catch them. The massive investigation into the anthrax letters that caused more than 20 cases of rare, inhalation anthrax and at least 5 deaths blended public health and law enforcement strategies in an effort to stop the outbreak and trace the organism. Unfortunately, the perpetrator or perpetrators remain at large. Microbial Forensics: A Scientific Assessment, a symposium at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Denver, CO, will address the systems, methods and technologies required for the successful investigation of biocrimes that could be directed against individuals, institutions, livestock and crops.

The session on Sunday, February 16, 2:30-5:30 pm, will explore microbial forensics, the emerging discipline that combines principles of public health epidemiology and law enforcement to identify patterns in a disease outbreak, determine the pathogen involved, control its spread and trace the microorganism to its source--the perpetrator(s). Microbial forensics investigations require and use traditional investigative methodology, established molecular techniques and new, advanced methods that still may be under development. Since investigators must consider eventual prosecution and presentation of evidence in the courts, biocrime criminal investigations require careful controls and standards for validation and evaluation of technologies and the data they produce.

Speakers at the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) sponsored session include organizer Abigail Salyers, Ph.D. ,University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and past president of the American Society for Microbiology, who will provide an overview of microbial forensics. Bruce Budowle, Ph.D., of the F.B.I. will speak on Practical Implications of Microbial

Contact: Andrea Lohse
American Society for Microbiology

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