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Mutant Anthrax Cells Led, Slowly, to Ivins

FBI probe required inventing new type of forensic science
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2008 8:56 AM CDT
Mutant Anthrax Cells Led, Slowly, to Ivins
This image sent Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001 by Bruce Ivins shows Ivins handling "cultures of the now infamous 'Ames' strain of Bacillus anthracis" at his lab according to the text of his message.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – The anthrax poisoning case against Bruce Ivins won't be made in court, but it is compelling, the FBI says. Although the late Army scientist's lawyer dismisses the case as “heaps of innuendo,” federal records reveal a far-reaching, exhaustive investigation that required newly invented technology and depended on mutant bacteria, reports the Washington Post.

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It took the experienced eye of a career scientist to notice that the strain of anthrax used in the 2001 attacks had strange properties. While most batches have one mutation or none, this one had five, indicating someone had painstakingly cultivated it. Though dozens had access to Ivins' secret stash of that strain, only he had the skills to prepare it, investigators say. (Read more Bruce Ivins stories.)

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