CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* Why did the University of Michigan researchers working with Dr. Ivins also have to be vaccinated for plague?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 29, 2011

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16 Responses to “* Why did the University of Michigan researchers working with Dr. Ivins also have to be vaccinated for plague?”

  1. DXer said

    The plague is back: The bioweapon of choice

    We need a vaccine for the plague, which has frightening potential if it falls into the wrong hands

    • Lydia Zuraw
    • Wednesday 11 January 2017

    The Independent-Jan 11, 2017

    He began his work following the anthrax attacks of 2001, when letters containing anthrax were mailed to media outlets and congressional offices. Congress …

    Comment:

    The headline “The bioweapon of choice” makes no sense, in my opinion. Jihadists would strongly disfavor plague, I imagine, because it is not subject to being controlled and the risk is that it could then spread back to islamic countries.

  2. DXer said

    Probe of military labs expands to plague, encephalitis
    BY LOLITA C. BALDOR AND ROBERT BURNS
    Associated PressSeptember 10, 2015

    Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/09/10/6407667_probe-of-military-labs-expands.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

    http://www.sunherald.com/2015/09/10/6407667_probe-of-military-labs-expands.html?rh=1

    When asked why the Pentagon didn’t disclose the new concerns about plague and encephalitis last week, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that officials were trying to be as forthcoming as possible “without alarming the public.” He added that officials are waiting for the results of the investigation.

    In a statement Thursday, the CDC said it was investigating four Defense Department labs as a result of spot checks at two facilities. The Army said the spot checks were at Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center and U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, both in Maryland.

    “CDC has identified a number of transfers of concern involving multiple organisms,” the CDC said, adding that the investigation is trying to determine whether there are record-keeping or quality-management problems or if there were shipment violations involving the toxins. “At this time, there is nothing to suggest risk to the health of workers or the general public.”

    ***

    CDC has identified a number of transfers of concern involving multiple organisms,” the CDC said, adding that the investigation is trying to determine whether there are record-keeping or quality-management problems or if there were shipment violations involving the toxins. “At this time, there is nothing to suggest risk to the health of workers or the general public.”

    According to the CDC, most of the transfers were between Defense Department facilities.

    Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/09/10/6407667_probe-of-military-labs-expands.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

    • DXer said

      “In a statement Thursday, the CDC said it was investigating four Defense Department labs as a result of spot checks at two facilities. The Army said the spot checks were at Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center and U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, both in Maryland.

      “CDC has identified a number of transfers of concern involving multiple organisms,” the CDC said, adding that the investigation is trying to determine whether there are record-keeping or quality-management problems or if there were shipment violations involving the toxins. “At this time, there is nothing to suggest risk to the health of workers or the general public.”

      ***

      CDC has identified a number of transfers of concern involving multiple organisms,” the CDC said, adding that the investigation is trying to determine whether there are record-keeping or quality-management problems or if there were shipment violations involving the toxins. “At this time, there is nothing to suggest risk to the health of workers or the general public.”

      Some background to excerpt from Associated Press article above:

      From: To:

      Subject: Date:

      Hi,

      Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID

      E Dr USAMRIID;
      Ideas for a group proposal on a Multi-agent vaccine

      Wednesday, November 24, 2004 2:05:00 PM

      Ivins, Bruce

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      ,

      and I were talking a couple of days ago about a possible multiagent bacterial vaccine development proposal from individuals inside the division. Since proposals on vaccines for individual bacterial agents do not have much chance for DTRA funding in FY06 and the near future, we talked about a multi-investigator/multi-agent plan for “A Rational Approach to the Development of a Multi- Agent Bacterial Vaccine.”

      We envisioned the entire proposal as being a pie chart, with individual investigators contributing a “slice” of the pie. (The pie is the finished, multi-agent vaccine.) Investigators would be needed for each organism/disease (anthrax, plague, tularemia? glanders? Q fever? etc.) and investigators would also be needed for studies in 1) immunology (enhancement or suppression of immune responses when antigens/agents are combined); 2) animal models, and what animals can be used for what combined vaccines; 3) the inclusion of new adjuvants (like MPL or CpG) or carriers (like microcapsules, which could do away with the need for boosters). Protective antigens for anthrax and plague have been identified, and a live vaccine for tularemia has been developed, but individual vaccine antigens from other agents have yet to be fully elucidated and should be part of the effort.

      We were thinking that some of the initial “combined vaccine” work might be done with anthrax and plague antigens, during which work on other agents by other investigators could be undertaken. Hopefully, as candidates for the other agents are identified, they could be included in a new vaccine. A number of questions such as animal models, adjuvants and carrier methodology could have been worked out.

      As a new investigator, perhaps you’d be willing to lead or help lead such a project. Division individuals who could possibly contribute to the group effort might include:

      1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8)

      (b)(6)

      (anthrax experience and immunological assay experience) myself (anthrax experience)

      (b)(6)

      You,
      and (plague)
      and (immunological studies, cytokine and lymphocyte changes, etc.)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      and (glanders, if that were one of the agents) (Q fever, C. burnettii, if that were chosen as one of the agents)

      others (tularemia, if that were chosen as one of the agents) Other individuals and other agents???

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      (b)(6)

      As I said, we wouldn’t have to wait for all agents to be “on-line” before starting work. A good deal of the development research can be undertaken at the same time that individual labs are working on individual agents as part of the overall project. Individual investigators could contribute their information and budget requirements to fill the entire “pie.”

      This is just an idea that (b)(6) and I were thinking about, and according to (b)(6) you and she have also been considering such an approach. I think that a group of people could accomplish a great deal towards development a multi-agent vaccine. Perhaps some people could talk about this in the near future.

      – Bruce Bruce Ivins

      https://mrmc.amedd.army.mil/content/foia_reading_room/Batch59/20041117_batch59(Redacted).pdf

      • DXer said

        consideration of components of a multi-agent vaccine delivery system was a 00/01 objective

        http://www.acq.osd.mil/cp/cbd_docs/reports/cbdovw00.pdf

        FY 00/01 Objective:

        Determine components to be incorporated into multi-agent vaccine delivery systems

      • DXer said

        https://mrmc.amedd.army.mil/content/foia_reading_room/Batch3/20000228_RE_%20multiagent%20vaccine%20study.pdf

        From: To: Subject: Date:

        Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID

        (b) (6)

        RE: multiagent vaccine study
        Monday, February 28, 2000 8:13:33 AM

        We have space in B3 for the guinea pigs at any time.

        – Bruce

        >—–Original Message—–
        >From: (b) (6) USAMRIID
        >Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2000 12:53 PM
        >To: ; Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID;

        >Subject: multiagent vaccine study
        >
        >We are ready to schedule the multiagent vaccine study. There are two experiments that need to be scheduled.
        >
        >Experiment 1 – prime boost study for Ebola and anthrax
        > We would like to start this experiment as soon as possible. There are 9 groups of 6 guinea pigs (54 total) that will need to be challenged with Ebola 8-12 (most likely 12) weeks after beginning vaccination. There are 6 groups of 6 guinea pigs (36 total) that will need to be challenged with anthrax.
        >
        >Experiment 2 – DNA multiagent vaccine for Ebola, Marburg, anthrax, and VEE
        > We would like to start this experiment 2-4 weeks after beginning the first experiment. I realize that the challenge portion of the first experiment will need to be complete to allow for suite space for the challenge of the animals in this second experiment. Challenges needed are as follows:
        > 1. Ebola – 3 groups of 6 (18 total)
        > 2. Marburg – 3 groups of 6 (18 total)
        > 3. anthrax – 4 groups of 6 (24 total)
        > 4. VEE – 4 groups of 6 (24 total)
        >

        (b) (6)

        >
        >The availability of the suites needs to be at the same time.
        >
        >I want to thank you in advance for your cooperation. I know that these are large studies and require a large amount of space. If you need anything form me, please let me know. I appreciate your efforts. >

        (b) (6)

        (b) (6)

        > the critical thing I need to know from you is when you can accomidate suite space for the Ebola and Marburg challenges.
        >
        >Dr. Ivins, the critical thing I need to know from you is when you can accomidate suite space for the anthrax challenges.

        >Best regards,

        (b) (6)

  3. DXer said

    CNN- plague? viruses? latest investigation started after CDC inspectors found a sample of the plague in a freezer outside of a containment area on August 17 at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland

    Did U.S. military labs mishandle bubonic plague, viruses?
    By Catherine E. Shoichet and Ross Levitt, CNN
    Updated 5:14 PM ET, Thu September 10, 2015
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/10/politics/pentagon-investigation-bubonic-plague-equine-encephalitis/

    (CNN)The U.S. Department of Defense is looking into possible mishandling of bubonic plague and equine encephalitis samples at its laboratories, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

    The new inquiry is part of an investigation into the mishandling of anthrax at Department of Defense labs, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

    The department hasn’t determined whether samples containing plague bacteria and specimens of the deadly virus were shipped from its labs, Cook said.

    “One of the things they’re doing right now is trying to assess whether any of these substances, first of all, pose any sort of threat; second of all, whether these substances were shipped to any other laboratories,” he said.

    ***

    The latest investigation started after CDC inspectors found a sample of the plague in a freezer outside of a containment area on August 17 at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland, Cook said.

    • DXer said

      Latest military lab concerns involve plague bacteria, deadly viruses
      Tom Vanden Brook and Alison Young, USA TODAY3:31 p.m. EDT September 10, 2015
      http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/09/10/bioterrorism-military-labs-specimens-mistakes-plague-encephalitis/71888694/

      WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s most secure laboratories may have mislabeled, improperly stored and shipped samples of potentially infectious plague bacteria, which can cause several deadly forms of disease, USA TODAY has learned.

      There is no danger to the public from the plague and encephalitis specimens found in the labs, said Army spokesman Dov Schwartz. After extensive testing, no danger has been found to scientists and researchers who have worked with the vials, he said. Final test results are expected by the end of the month.

      However, for the first time since the scandal broke in May about an Army lab’s botched handling of anthrax, the Pentagon is now acknowledging that worries now extend to other lethal agents that it studies. …

      n a statement this week to USA TODAY, Schwartz said the CDC’s concerns about the plague and encephalitis directly contributed to McHugh’s ordering of the moratorium. An Aug. 17 CDC inspection at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland raised questions as to whether a strain of Yersinia pestis, the organism that causes plague, was infectious even though it was stored in an area designated for non-infectious material.

  4. DXer said

    I don’t understand Dr. Ivins to be the go-to guy on plague vaccine research.

    Bruce names two scientists in this email which also mentions microcapsules, referring to the microencapsulation work that had been done at SRI in the mid-1990s in connection with vaccine research.

    https://mrmc.amedd.army.mil/content/foia_reading_room/Batch59/20041117_batch59(Redacted).pdf

    From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID To:
    E Dr USAMRIID; Subject: Ideas for a group proposal on a Multi-agent vaccine
    Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 2:05:00 PM
    Hi, ,
    Ivins, Bruce
    (b)(6)
    (b)(6)
    (b)(6)
    (b)(6)
    and I were talking a couple of days ago about a possible multiagent bacterial vaccine development proposal from individuals inside the division. Since proposals on vaccines for individual bacterial agents do not have much chance for DTRA funding in FY06 and the near future, we talked about a multi-investigator/multi-agent plan for “A Rational Approach to the Development of a Multi- Agent Bacterial Vaccine.”

    We envisioned the entire proposal as being a pie chart, with individual investigators contributing a “slice” of the pie. (The pie is the finished, multi-agent vaccine.) Investigators would be needed for each organism/disease (anthrax, plague, tularemia? glanders? Q fever? etc.) and investigators would also be needed for studies in 1) immunology (enhancement or suppression of immune responses when antigens/agents are combined); 2) animal models, and what animals can be used for what combined vaccines; 3) the inclusion of new adjuvants (like MPL or CpG) or carriers (like microcapsules, which could do away with the need for boosters). Protective antigens for anthrax and plague have been identified, and a live vaccine for tularemia has been developed, but individual vaccine antigens from other agents have yet to be fully elucidated and should be part of the effort.

    We were thinking that some of the initial “combined vaccine” work might be done with anthrax and plague antigens, during which work on other agents by other investigators could be undertaken. Hopefully, as candidates for the other agents are identified, they could be included in a new vaccine. A number of questions such as animal models, adjuvants and carrier methodology could have been worked out.

    As a new investigator, perhaps you’d be willing to lead or help lead such a project. Division individuals who could possibly contribute to the group effort might include:
    1) (anthrax experience and immunological assay experience) 2) You, myself (anthrax experience) 3) and (plague) 4) and (immunological studies, cytokine and lymphocyte changes, etc.) 5) and (glanders, if that were one of the agents)
    6) (Q fever, C. burnettii, if that were chosen as one of the agents) 7) others (tularemia, if that were chosen as one of the agents) 8) Other individuals and other agents???
    As I said, we wouldn’t have to wait for all agents to be “on-line” before starting work. A good deal of the development research can be undertaken at the same time that individual labs are working on individual agents as part of the overall project. Individual investigators could contribute their information and budget requirements to fill the entire “pie.”
    This is just an idea that and I were thinking about, and according to you and she have also been considering such an approach. I think that a group of people could accomplish a great deal towards development a multi-agent vaccine. Perhaps some people could talk about this in the near future.
    – Bruce Bruce Ivins

    • DXer said

      On other hand, Bruce was apparently working on work on MPL in both anthrax and plague vaccines. I believe Les B. was also but am not sure.

      On October 11, 2001 he received an email:

      https://mrmc.amedd.army.mil/content/foia_reading_room/Batch36/20011008_batch36(redacted).pdf

      From: Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2001 5:46 PM To: ‘bruce.ivins@AMEDD.ARMY.MIL’ Subject: MPL Investigations

      Dear Bruce:
      Hello and I hope this message finds you doing well.
      It’s been quite awhile since we last corresponded and, with all the news lately about anthrax, I thought I should contact you regarding your work with MPL. When we talked last year, you were still working with MPL in both anthrax and plague vaccines. Are you still involved in these projects? As you may or may not be aware, Corixa has a several new adjuvant formulations, including synthetic compounds, which are being studied in many disease indications.
      I would like to chat with you further when you have a few minutes. Please let me know when would be a convenient time to call.
      Thanks in advance. Best regards,

  5. DXer said

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/29/black-death-not-spread-rat-fleas-london-plague

    Black death was not spread by rat fleas, say researchers
    Evidence from skulls in east London shows plague had to have been airborne to spread so quickly

    The Observer, Saturday 29 March 2014 18.01 EDT

    According to scientists working at Public Health England in Porton Down, for any plague to spread at such a pace it must have got into the lungs of victims who were malnourished and then been spread by coughs and sneezes. It was therefore a pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague. Infection was spread human to human, rather than by rat fleas that bit a sick person and then bit another victim. “As an explanation [rat fleas] for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn’t good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics,” said Dr Tim Brooks from Porton Down, who will put his theory in a Channel 4 documentary, Secret History: The Return of the Black Death, next Sunday.

    To support his argument, Brooks has looked at what happened in Suffolk in 1906 when plague killed a family and then spread to a neighbour who had come to help. The culprit was pneumonic plague, which had settled in the lungs of the victims and was spread through infected breath.

  6. DXer said

    “Plague draws attention amid concern that it might be deployed by terrorists” in Washington Post was written by Borrell, a freelance writer and a 2013 fellow with the Alicia Patterson Foundation. -3 hours ago

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/plague-draws-attention-amid-concern-that-it-might-be-deployed-by-terrorists/2013/04/08/bbd9a64a-84de-11e2-999e-5f8e0410cb9d_story.html

    Comment:

    Ayman Zawahiri in his correspondence with Atef, for example, said that Al Qaeda’s attention to anthrax only because the media kept saying how it was a concern — saying how easy it was.

    To be sure, the life-saving work that CDC, Dr. Inglesby and others do is critically important. We saw the good done with eliminating smallpox — and now Bill Gates, as I recall, is targeting malaria attempting a similar campaign used against smallpox.

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/100409068

    From a national security perspective, however, the story I find more interesting relates to whether there is evidence — or not — of planning of the use of plague by terrorists. … not that some disease exists in the wild and kills.

    For example, among the papers seized from Dr. Ayman listed in the landmark article years ago by Petro and Relman article in SCIENCE, were there a lot of articles on plague? It listed a long list of literature Dr. Ayman had in his possession. There was a major disease represented in addition to anthrax. What was it? Why was Dr. Ayman studying it so closely? If you don’t remember the Relman/Petro article, then you are missing the reason for the tremendous insights that David Relman has into Amerithrax.

    As to plague, a fellow teaching a taxidermy presentation on Sunday described one government employee who located a mountain lion that had died (the lion could be located by his radio transmitter). It was out in the Western United States. Pictures show that the government employee carried the mountain lion over his shoulders. He then died two days later from the plague — due to fleas that had infected the mountain lion.

    I was surprised to learn that the man giving the taxidermy demonstration typically just uses Dawn soap and borax to clean animals as he guts them. He would always use gloves when he used to prepare primates — but he definitely was not using gloves preparing the bird. Although not as expert as the people in the pathology lab, he is very alert to lesions or other evidence of disease. I think he said rabbits, in particular, were at risk for spreading tularemia.

    Al Qaeda anthrax lab director Yazid Sufaat said in interviews last year that he thinks anthrax is rather lame — he prefers a pathogen that “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” kills you in a couple of hours without chance of being saved. So I would be more concerned with an attack using ricin such as Anwar Awlaki was planning from Yemen.

    It’s hard to stay interested in these Al Qaeda and mafia murderers when the North Korea leader is allowed to be so reckless in his rhetoric. Our government officials don’t have an easy job, that’s for sure.

    Bill Gates, as I recall, would point out that diseases tend to be cured when big pharma finds that it is able to profit. As I recall, he said there was no profit in curing Africa in malaria. Make plague seem a national security threat to the US, and maybe big pharma would profit and lives will be saved in some faraway village in Uganda — notwithstanding this issue whether Al Qaeda would ever use plague.

    Al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, I think, would be loathe to use something that they couldn’t control.

  7. DXer said

    Did the University of Michigan researchers do research with plague? Did they have access to plague at USAMRIID? Where was it stored?

    Does Al Qaeda have access to plague?

    While working for the former Malaysian biological program, what was Sufaat’s specialization? Was it anthrax?

    J Pathog. 2012;2012:781652. doi: 10.1155/2012/781652. Epub 2012 Oct 3.
    Rapid Detection and Identification of Yersinia pestis from Food Using Immunomagnetic Separation and Pyrosequencing.
    Amoako KK, Shields MJ, Goji N, Paquet C, Thomas MC, Janzen TW, Bin Kingombe CI, Kell AJ, Hahn KR.
    Source

    Lethbridge Laboratory, National Centres for Animal Disease, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, P.O. Box 640, Township Road 9-1, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 3Z4.
    Abstract

    Interest has recently been renewed in the possible use of Y. pestis, the causative agent of plague, as a biological weapon by terrorists. The vulnerability of food to intentional contamination coupled with reports of humans having acquired plague through eating infected animals that were not adequately cooked or handling of meat from infected animals makes the possible use of Y. pestis in a foodborne bioterrorism attack a reality. Rapid, efficient food sample preparation and detection systems that will help overcome the problem associated with the complexity of the different matrices and also remove any ambiguity in results will enable rapid informed decisions to be made regarding contamination of food with biothreat agents. We have developed a rapid detection assay that combines the use of immunomagnetic separation and pyrosequencing in generating results for the unambiguous identification of Y. pestis from milk (0.9 CFU/mL), bagged salad (1.6 CFU/g), and processed meat (10 CFU/g). The low detection limits demonstrated in this assay provide a novel tool for the rapid detection and confirmation of Y. pestis in food without the need for enrichment. The combined use of the iCropTheBug system and pyrosequencing for efficient capture and detection of Y. pestis is novel and has potential applications in food biodefence.

  8. DXer said

    There must be a parallel set of documents for the research involving plague that we have not seen yet. Such records are important — access to a B3 for plague might very well involve access to Ames on different days.

  9. DXer said

    GAO, did Al Qaeda ever experiment with plague? Did the reported 40 deaths in 2009 relate to experimentation with plague? If so, were samples obtained? If so, what was the strain? What was its origin?

    Knowing the strain and origin of any plague sample obtained by Al Qaeda is worth knowing. For example, the former Zawahiri associate provided virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins also was vaccinated for plague in advance of his visit to the BL-3 at USAMRIID.

    The scientists doing highly specialized work for the FBI on genetic strain identification could reasonably inform themselves more broadly by reading the documents produced by the FBI under FOIA. It often helps frame the questions that might usefully be asked.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2012/0626/Chemical-weapons-raise-the-stakes-in-Syria
    Chemical weapons raise the stakes in Syria
    Syria’s civil war is ugly, and outside intervention could make it uglier. But Syria’s alleged chemical weapons stockpiles argue for a major US and international role if the Assad regime collapses.

    By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / June 26, 2012

    In 2009, a British tabloid reported that an Al Qaeda group in Algeria was forced to abandon a training camp after experiments to weaponize bubonic plague led to the deaths of 40 militants.

  10. DXer said

    Bruce Ivins supplied virulent Ames to a former Zawahiri associate. Who supplied the University of Michigan researchers with plague?

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