Assistance during bioterrorism-related anthrax in the United States


Prior to October 2001, all cases of the skin form of anthrax (cutaneous anthrax) in the U.S. were associated with agricultural or industrial exposures. During the 20th century, there had been less than 24 reported cases of the more severe inhalational anthrax. In the fall of 2001, however, after Bacillus anthracis (the bacteria responsible for anthrax) was isolated from a patient who worked as a photo editor, public health authorities in the U.S. began to investigate cases of bioterrorism-related inhalational and cutaneous anthrax. Subsequent investigations indicated that the outbreak resulted from intentional delivery of B. anthracis spores through mailed letters or packages.

During the fall of 2001, IDPB tested autopsy and biopsy tissue of suspected cases of anthrax. The results of IDPB’s studies were vital for the diagnosis of surviving anthrax cases and to help determine the route of infection for patients who died of inhalational anthrax.