Science & Tech

Anthrax expert Matthew Meselson speaks out

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Harvard professor addresses what anthrax info is reliable

In 1992-93, Harvard Professor Matthew Meselson investigated the largest known outbreak of inhalation anthrax in history, which occurred in the Soviet Union in 1979. The anthrax was accidentally released from a Russian military facility. Meselson and his co-researchers documented the deaths of 66 people, and found 11 who survived. In the wake of cases of anthrax being sent through the mail in 2001, Meselson addressed what information being released through the news media was accurate and what should be questioned. Among the interesting points of information that Meselson offered in an interview was that young people seemed to not be affected by airborne anthrax. “We checked reports from all over the world, but could find no cases of younger people being infected by inhalation anthrax. There are cases of cutaneous infection in children and young people, where spores enter cuts or breaks in the skin, but not of the inhaled variety. We also looked at a similar disease, Legionnaires’ disease, and found a similar trend. Maybe at high doses, everyone would get infected, but this suggests that at low doses young people would escape infection by inhalation.”