DIA Hopes to Grow Anthrax Variant to Test Vaccine
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2001 The Defense Intelligence Agency hopes to grow a Russian-engineered variant of anthrax to test the effectiveness of the vaccine given to U.S. troops.
"We have a vaccine that works against ... all of the known anthrax strains. What we want to do is make sure we are prepared for any surprises," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said Sept. 4.
A 1997 medical journal reported that Russia might have developed a modified anthrax strain. Concerned about its possible use as a biological weapon, DIA officials requested a sample from Russia, but to date have received none, Clarke said in a Pentagon media briefing.
"Earlier this year, the DIA started to look into what it would take to get the legal approvals, to get the interagency coordination, to do the congressional briefings, to look into developing that strain so they could test vaccines and they could see what we have to do to make sure we're protected against it," Clarke said.
She stressed no scientific work has been done so far in developing this strain and that the proposed work, codenamed Project Jefferson, would be in compliance with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
Clarke said the convention allows work that is purely defensive in nature. "It allows you to have small quantities of a known agent, limited quantities of an agent if you want to study it for the purpose of protecting people against that threat," she added.
Once the legal work is done, DIA intends to go forward with developing the anthrax strain, Clarke said.
"We take the threat of the spread of biological and chemical warfare very, very seriously. We have an obligation -- and it's an important obligation -- to make sure we protect, first and foremost, the men and women in uniform against those threats," she said. "So with all the appropriate legal reviews, with all the appropriate interagency coordination and congressional briefing, we plan to proceed."