Novel method predicts impact of a covert anthrax release

Apr 10, 2009

A new statistical method that can estimate the origin and time of an aerosolized release of the pathogen causing anthrax, following detection of the first few cases has been developed by researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London in collaboration with the Health Protection Agency's Microbial Risk Assessment group.

The method, described in an article published April 10 in the open-access journal , predicts where the most critically affected areas will be following the release of this highly pathogenic agent, which may enable preventative treatment of individuals at risk and protection from the disease.

Previously published methods can estimate the date and scale of release but not the source location or geographic extent of human exposure. The new method uses information about the first people infected, including when they started to experience symptoms of infection and where they live and work, combined with recent weather information, such as wind direction.

Dr Judith Legrand, lead author of the study from the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, said: "We have devised a new way to forecast the future course of a potential outbreak and the people and geographic areas likely to be worst affected."

Anthrax has the potential to cause a large number of deaths in the event of a covert, open air release. If such a release were to occur, it is critical for public health decision makers to evaluate its extent and the potential impact on the population and then to identify the people most at risk of infection as soon as possible.

Dr Judith Legrand added: "It is critical to treat people as soon as possible after exposure to anthrax. While forecasts based on small numbers of early cases are less reliable than those obtained later in an outbreak, we show that treating individuals based on early estimates is still likely to save lives overall."

More information: Legrand J, Egan JR, Hall IM, Cauchemez S, Leach S, et al. (2009) Estimating the Location and Spatial Extent of a Covert Anthrax Release. PLoS Comput Biol 5(1): e1000356. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000356, dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000356

Source: Public Library of Science (news : web)

Explore further: Organic apple orchards benefit from green compost applications

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A faster, more sensitive method for detecting anthrax

Nov 05, 2007

Amid continuing concerns that anthrax might be used as a bioterrorism weapon, government researchers report development of a faster, more sensitive blood test for detecting the deadly toxins produced by the ...

A new method to identify mutated genes in human diseases

Mar 28, 2008

Researchers from the University of Turin, Italy and the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, have devised a new method that may help the medical community to determine the genetic basis of many common diseases. Their ...

Recommended for you

Rising temperatures can be hard on dogs

49 minutes ago

The "dog days of summer" are here, but don't let the phrase fool you. This hot time of year can be dangerous for your pup, says a Kansas State University veterinarian.

Monkeys fear big cats less, eat more, with humans around

4 hours ago

Some Monkeys in South Africa have been found to regard field scientists as human shields against predators and why not if the alternative is death by leopard? The researchers found the monkeys felt far safer ...

User comments : 0