Spores

“Patrick, who holds patents for techniques used to make weapons-grade anthrax, said that the type of spores mailed to the offices of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., could have been processed in a crude laboratory “as long as you are dealing with small quantities of material.” He said anthrax can be cultured on many different growth mediums and that there are many ways to purify and dry it.Patrick led the Army’s biological weapons program at Fort Detrick, Md., until the program ended in 1969. Since then, he has worked as an adviser and consultant on biological warfare for the Defense Department. In 1998, he taught scientists at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah how to turn wet clusters of bacteria spores into a dry powder, according to The Washington Post. That technology is not difficult, Patrick said Tuesday. He said the key to turning anthrax into a weapon is the genetic strain of the microbe. “It is all in the strain,” he said. “If you have poor strain you’re not going to make a good product.” The strain of anthrax used in the letters mailed to media offices in New York and in Florida has been identified as Ames, a strain that was used in Defense Department testing.

Patrick said that spores mailed to the senators offices are “one step removed from weapons grade.” “It has small particles, with good concentration, (but) it is electrostatic (carries an electrical charge),” said Patrick. To make the mailed spores suitable for military weapons, the electrical charge would have to be removed. The electrical charge helps make the spore become airborne at the slightest puff of air.

Investigators have said the anthrax spores in the letters sent to the senators’ offices were so charged that they tended to jump off microscope slides and fly about the chamber where they were being examined. Patrick said the same thing would have happened to anyone who made spores for the anthrax-by-letter attacks. “It would have been flying all over the room,” he said, with up to half the material lost. If the processing room had a window to the outside, he said, “You could get people infected if they were just passing that window.”

A person making the spores in a home laboratory, said Patrick, could have protected themselves by wearing a special, easily purchased mask and by taking an antibiotic to prevent infection. But the process still would have contaminated the room where the work was done, he said. Patrick said to turn anthrax into a weapon would involve mixing a cluster of spores with a liquid compound that would cause the individual spores to separate and stay apart.

“How you treat the liquid material determines what the particle size (of the spores) is going to be and what the concentration will be,” he said. Drying the wet spores “is not a technically demanding task,” he said. “You can dry it in many ways — even with a heat lamp. “If you purify the material and dried by a vacuum drum or by spray drying or by freeze drying, the material will be the same,” said Patrick. He said the spores would bear chemical traces of the material used in the wetting compound. Asked about a report that the spores in the senators’ offices bore traces of silica, a drying agent, Patrick said: “I am not going to discuss silica, either the presence or the absence of it.”

Another anthrax expert, who asked not to be identified, said the characteristics of the spores found in the senators’ offices suggest the material was spray-dried. This means that the wet spores would have been sprayed into a drying chamber that absorbed the moisture and trapped the dry spores which could then be packaged. Patrick said a person making an anthrax weapon could store the material at room temperature in a wide-mouthed glass vessel with a screw-on lid called a biological jar. He said the lid could then be taped and the material stored in an ordinary cabinet.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2001/12/19/anthrax-pioneer.htm

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Information from Dr. Meryl Nass:
September 20, 2001
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thirdring>> note this date, one day before the ‘index patient’ at the NY Post evidences an anthrax finger blister. Is it a response to the high pitch of anthrax fear, inculcated on 9-11, or suggestive of foreknowledge?
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“Anthrax does NOT spread from person to person. It ONLY affects those who breathe in the spores when first released. There is only a tiny risk from spores that are re-aerosolized later. Therefore, if you are not in the immediate area of release, or in a narrow path where spores of sufficient quantity are carried by the wind (it requires tens of thousands to millions of spores to cause infection) you will not be affected.” http://www.anthraxvaccine.org/recter.html
“…Workers in American factories that were grossly contaminated with anthrax spores, who inhaled hundreds of spores each day, almost never developed inhalation anthrax, the most deadly form of the disease.”  http://www.anthraxvaccine.org/questions.html
Oct 14 update:

“1.   It takes the inhalation of hundreds of thousands to millions of spores of anthrax to cause the disease inhalation anthrax, with the possible exception of people with immune deficiencies, for whom less spores might lead to illness.  Fewer spores do not cause illness; the immune system seems to readily defend against them.  This is presumably why 5 others in Florida have now been found with anti-anthrax antibodies, but were not ill.  In goat hair mills, where workers were daily exposed to anthrax spores, some developed antibodies and some did not.  (Our antibody (ELISA) tests may not detect all antibodies to anthrax.)

2.   If there were enough spores inhaled in Florida to kill one worker, then there must have been millions more in the office. Other workers would have therefore had spores on clothes, shoes, hair…There would have been spores on the desks, floors, and in the indoor air…

3.   …workers with only gloves on did some environmental sampling when the first case was diagnosed, and employees were allowed to remain in the building for an additional week,…The environmental samples and nasal swabs were all said to be negative, apart from one person and one computer keyboard.  This is simply not possible.  Almost fifty years ago, an electrician at Fort Detrick died after doing some work in a building where anthrax research was conducted.  Samples taken then (1950s) showed that the building was grossly contaminated, with anthrax spores all over.  Why was the Florida sampling so much less sensitive than the sampling that took place in the 1950s?  Why did it take authorities a week to figure out that the other employees were also exposed, and that the building was contaminated?

4.  ….I’m guessing that the spate of hoaxes has rapidly overwhelmed the FBI’s ability to deal with each, and overwhelmed their forensic lab’s capability.  Hoaxes may also be a strategy of a terrorist.  Remember how the anti-ballistic missile program has been criticized for its inability to deal with thousands of  dummy missiles which could provide cover for a small number of “real” missiles?  We may be seeing the same thing now….
5.  …Tests of environmental samples can be performed in hours, not days…
 
8.  …The Florida anthrax strain was reported to be sensitive to just about every oral antibiotic, including penicillins, tetracyclines and quinolones such as ciprofloxiacin.  The problem is this: we do not know how long you will need to take them, and we do not know if all the anthrax held by terrorists will be antibiotic sensitive, as the Florida strain apparently was.  Monkey experiments showed that the animals survived lethal anthrax exposures when antibiotics were provided within 24 hours following exposure, but that some died when antibiotics were stopped, after a month or more.  So how long do you take them for?  Personally, I would take them for at least six months, if that were the only treatment I had…
 
10.  Detergents can increase the virulence of anthrax spores, and thereby decrease the number needed to cause disease.  It may be that the addition of detergents at the Manchester NH goat hair mill where the US’ only epidemic of inhalation anthrax occurred (5 cases in 1957), was the cause of the epidemic.  This increasing of spore virulence by detergent was described in a paper by JM Barnes: “The development of anthrax following the administration of spores by inhalation.” British J Experimental Pathology 1947, vol 28, pp385-94.  I would therefore not wash contaminated clothes or surfaces with detergents, until we have been informed exactly what to use and what not to use, by those who have done the appropriate experiments at Fort Detrick Maryland or Porton Down in the UK.
 
[Nass’s conclusions]

Bottom Line:

1.      Environmental sampling needs to be made more accurate, using known techniques, and more widespread…

2.  …existing tests that take hours, not days, need to be the primary ones used.
3.      All questionable materials must be tested using sensitive techniques…
4.      The public needs to be reassured that in fact, the government will address these incidents promptly and effectively…
5.      Biosensors in development need to be assessed now, and the best ones need to be put into mass production.
6.      Pharmaceutical companies should increase production of a variety of antibiotics, and government stockpiles of these materials should increase.
7.      Novel approaches to treatment should be investigated and prepared or obtained in advance…
8.      Information on safe methods for inactivating spores found in or on contaminated clothes, surfaces and other environmental materials should be provided to the public immediately.
9.      Information on cheap masks, like those worn by lab techs working under hoods, that have high efficacy for anthrax, should be provided to the public.  Production should be increased.
Oct 21 Update
… Cutaneous infections require many fewer spores to induce illness, compared to inhalation anthrax.  The infected individuals are serving as the “canaries in the mineshaft” who warn that anthrax is present.  If the extent of spore dissemination increases (higher concentrations in ambient air from envelopes, or through other means) then the inhalation cases will serve as the canaries, and there will be many fatalities.
…The bottom line is that spores are odorless, tasteless, and invisible, individually.  In a worst case scenario, up to one trillion spores (1,000,000,000,000) might be present in one gram of material.  One gram can be contained easily within a one-ounce (28 gram) letter.  It theoretically could contain a million lethal doses, if the majority of the spores were viable, of the right size, and dispersed easily without clumping.
What is a lethal dose of spores?  The reason why you may read a variety of different estimates for this number is because a) there are no human-derived data, and b) there are a variety of factors that impact the answer.  There are many animal experiments, and those results are surprising at times.  It also depends on the virulence of the anthrax strain used, the amount of air you inhale (during exercise, you breathe in several times as much air as you do at rest), the % of viable spores, the distribution of size of spores, whether the spores easily separate from each other, and your own inherent immune system function.  Thus the number might range from 10,000 spores to many millions.  Animal tests of a sample from a letter should give us a rough idea of how virulent the potion is, and what a lethal dose might be. 
…It remains very important to keep one’s exposure to anthrax spores to a minimum, particularly if you work in a high risk industry, such as the postal service, UPS, Fedex, media or politics.  Although I earlier advised against gas masks, I have come to believe there is a role for appropriate, well-fitted masks that have demonstrated efficacy in preventing inhalation of particles of the 0.5 to 5.0 micron size.  My hope is that once environmental sensors are used widely, we will be able to discard masks…
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Diagnosing exposure in people is not that easy.  Although obtaining nasal swabs is a simple procedure to perform, one study shows that the spores rapidly disappear from the nose after exposure, suggesting that swabs are only likely to be positive within 24 hours of contact.  Thus sensitivity may be very low, and swabs will give you many false negative results.
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“microbiologist Johnny Peterson of the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. ‘Cutaneous anthrax does not always extend into more serious forms of the infection,’ he says. Symptoms begin with itching of the skin, followed by the eruption of a sore or lesion. Two to six days later, the lesion scabs over, with a jet black scab. ‘The initial lesion is painless,’ Peterson says, ‘and could be typical of any little pustule. It might have some clear fluid. It tends to dry up and scab over, turning black. The organisms continue to grow in the tissue.’ If left untreated, cutaneious anthrax can spread to lymph nodes and the bloodstream, causing death in 5% to 20% of cases, according to the American Public Health Association. If treated with antibiotics, it’s almost always cured. Actuary Fred Kilbourne calculates that the chance of dying from anthrax is one in 500 million. But, he says, all risk calculations are based on the idea that “the future will look something like the past. We see from current events that that may not always be so.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2001/10/12/anthrax-usat.htm“Dr. Joseph McCormick, assistant dean of the University of Texas Houston School of Public Health in Brownsville, is concerned about a CDC recommendation that people sterilize possibly contaminated surfaces using chlorine. “We have corresponded with a number of people about this, and they all say the same thing: It does not work,” said McCormick, who used to head the CDC’s top laboratory. “There is no published evidence that chlorine works.” http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com/misc2.html

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