- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Scientists analyzing the genetic makeup of anthrax used in the attacks last fall have found tiny genetic differences that might help identify the source of the bacteria.
Investigators hope that identifying detailed genetic markers will allow them to trace the anthrax sent through the mail to one of a dozen or so labs that had anthrax from the commonly held Ames strain in its possession. Until now, no differences among the various anthrax samples had been pinpointed.
A law enforcement official yesterday confirmed that the findings have potential, but said it is far from certain they will lead to a break in the case.
Scientists at the Institute for Genetic Research in Rockville say there appear to be a few subtle genetic variations between two anthrax samples they are comparing: anthrax used in the Florida attack and anthrax held by a British biological-defense lab that originally received its sample from the U.S. Army lab at Fort Detrick, Md.
The differences still must be verified, a process being carried out by researchers at Northern Arizona University, said Timothy D. Read, who heads the Institute for Genetic Research’s effort to map anthrax’s genes. But this could lead to a break in the investigation, Mr. Read said yesterday. “It has potential.”
Mr. Read added that his research is on the cutting edge of genetic inquiry, so scientists are not certain about their findings. “This type of analysis is going to be something for the future. This is sort of the pioneering effort.”
Investigators still don’t know who sent anthrax-tainted letters that killed four persons and infected more than a dozen others. Most victims were postal workers or people working at media offices where detectives have confirmed or suspect anthrax letters were sent.
The FBI has made scant progress in its investigation but plans to increase the $1.25 million reward in the hope someone will come forward with information. The FBI plans a news conference today in Trenton, N.J., to announce the higher reward.

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