To help find out who launched the first major bioterrorism attack in the United States, scientists have compared the DNA of the anthrax bacterium that killed a man in Florida last October with the DNA of a version of the bacterium commonly studied in laboratories. The comparison revealed only a few subtle genetic differences between the two strains. The analysis confirms that the Florida strain has the same origin as the laboratory version, but it doesn't pinpoint a specific source.
Timothy D. Read of the Institute of Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Md., and his colleagues were already sequencing the DNA of Bacillus anthracis when letters containing spores of the anthrax bacterium started showing up last fall. The researchers then received government funding to quickly sequence the genome of the bacterial strain sent in the letters.