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Timeline: Anthrax through the ages

(CNN) -- Although it's surfacing anew as a terrorist weapon, the deadly anthrax disease has plagued the world for centuries, with reports of it dating back to biblical times.

Anthrax is blamed for several devastating plagues that killed both humans and livestock. Soon after scientists learned more about it in the late 1800s, it emerged in World War I as a biological weapon.

Several countries, including Germany, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Iraq and the former Soviet Union, are believed to have experimented with anthrax, but its use in warfare has been limited.

1500 B.C. -- Fifth Egyptian plague, affecting livestock, and the sixth, known as the plague of boils, symptomatic of anthrax

1600s -- "Black Bane," thought to be anthrax, kills 60,000 cattle in Europe

1876 -- Robert Koch confirms bacterial origin of anthrax

In Depth: The anthrax investigation 

1880 -- First successful immunization of livestock against anthrax .

1915 -- German agents in the United States believed to have injected horses, mules, and cattle with anthrax on their way to Europe during World War I

1937 -- Japan starts biological warfare program in Manchuria, including tests involving anthrax

1942 -- United Kingdom experiments with anthrax at Gruinard Island off the coast of Scotland. It was only recently decontaminated.

1943 -- United States begins developing anthrax weapons

1945 -- Anthrax outbreak in Iran kills 1 million sheep

1950s and '60s -- U.S. biological warfare program continues after World War II at Fort Detrick, Maryland

1969 -- President Richard Nixon ends United States' offensive biological weapons program. Defensive work continues

1970 -- Anthrax vaccine approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1972 -- International convention outlaws development or stockpiling of biological weapons

1978-80 -- Human anthrax epidemic strikes Zimbabwe, infecting more than 6,000 and killing as many as 100

1979 -- Aerosolized anthrax spores released accidentally at a Soviet Union military facility, killing about 68 people

1991 -- U.S. troops vaccinated for anthrax in preparation for Gulf War

1990-93 -- The terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo, releases anthrax in Tokyo but no one is injured

1995 -- Iraq admits it produced 8,500 liters of concentrated anthrax as part of biological weapons program

1998 -- U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen approves anthrax vaccination plan for all military service members

2001 -- A letter containing anthrax spores is mailed to NBC one week after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. It was the first of a number of incidents around the country. In Florida, a man dies after inhaling anthrax at the offices of American Media Inc.


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