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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Anthrax Scare: Anthrax Strain May Have Been Manufactured

Aired October 10, 2001 - 06:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We've got more now on that anthrax case out of Florida. Investigators now think they've been able to trace the origins of that anthrax.

CNN's Susan Candiotti reporting live this morning on the telephone from Miami -- Susan, what did you find out?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Good morning, Carol.

According to a federal law enforcement source, the investigation so far is leading authorities to believe that the particular strain of anthrax contracted by Robert Stevens, who died last week, was manufactured and did not appear in nature naturally.

Specifically, investigators -- and this information is not yet confirmed conclusively -- are leaning in the direction that the anthrax strain in question was manufactured at a facility, that they have not identified to us publicly, in Iowa and manufactured back in the 1950s. It would appear as though, according to the source, that that facility is no longer in operation, but would have been many, many years ago.

Again, this information is not conclusive, but according to the source, it is the direction in which investigators are leaning.

Now, why is this significant? Well, the sources say that if this information does pan out absolutely, it would indicate, apparently, that Robert Stevens did not contract the strain of anthrax by accident. You remember that authorities have been trying to find out whether the strain that he contracted appeared in nature or was manufactured. And they have been considering whether, they said, it came as close to a match found in a goat at one time, or that it was possibly made or manufactured in a laboratory. And that was information that we learned within the last couple of days.

Now, it would appear that they are leaning in this direction that it was, indeed, manufactured -- Carol.

LIN: Susan, do they have any theories about how the anthrax, if it originated in this facility in Iowa, how it spread?

CANDIOTTI: No, that's one of the things that they're looking at. But apparently in the past, as researchers were looking into anthrax over the course of the years -- in fact, researchers were looking at how to create different strains of anthrax decades ago. And so, the question is: At that time did it go somewhere else, or was it passed on to other researchers, or where did it go from there? These are all of the unanswered questions.

And at this time, again, we want to stress that they have not concluded this without a shadow of a doubt, but they are leaning in that direction.

LIN: Right. Interesting, but at least investigators are confirming that this is not anthrax found environmentally -- that it was created in some sort of laboratory or artificial environment. It is manmade.

What investigators are saying, too -- and I find this very interesting -- is that the anthrax bacteria that they had identified in this Florida man who died, had some unique characteristics. They describe it like a ballistics test -- that it had a characteristic that helps them trace its origins.

Those very same characteristics, will they, then, be able to create a trail if, in fact, it was created in Iowa, where it might have gone next?

CANDIOTTI: Well, they hope that that's case, and you're right. Each of these strains do have unique characteristics, such as tracing a strain of DNA. And over the years, investigators -- researchers have kept these strains on file as it is studied, as it would come up from time to time, so that they can compare -- every time they find something can make the comparison to try to find a match.

And now, it would appear that if they are able to trace it further, they might be able to nail down exactly where this anthrax might have originated, or where it went after it was, for example, manufactured at this facility back in the 1950s in Iowa. Where did it go from there?

LIN: Interesting. All right, thank you very much -- Susan Candiotti reporting live by telephone from Miami.

You don't normally think of bacteria as having a kind of fingerprint, but in this case, it might help in the investigation.

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