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Great Strides Made in Nation’s Biodefenses Since 2001 Anthrax Attacks; But Concerns Linger

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Dan Vergano
USA TODAY

Anthrax-laced letters that killed five people, targeted U.S. senators and paralyzed post offices a decade ago have reshaped the nation’s biodefenses.

While confidence is higher that the United States is better protected, there are continuing worries about potential threats in the coming era of “synthetic biology,” man-made designer microbes.

Nationwide, subways and airports now have germ-sniffing sensors, new federal biodefense labs have been erected and specially trained FBI teams stand ready to investigate bioterrorist attacks, all absent in 2001.

Bruce Budowle/univ. photo

“We are certainly better prepared for another anthrax attack,” says former FBI scientist Bruce Budowle, now of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. “But we still don’t know everything else that is out there in the environment, and ‘synthetic biology’ is a whole new concern.”

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