August 19, 2016
(Science) – Some call it the “biological Chernobyl.” On 2 April 1979, a plume of anthrax spores was accidentally released from a secret bioweapons facility in the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk. Propelled by a slow wind, the cloud drifted southeast, producing a 50-kilometer trail of disease and death among humans and animals alike. At least 66 people lost their lives, making it the deadliest human outbreak of inhalation anthrax ever. Now, 37 years later, scientists have managed to isolate the pathogen’s DNA from the bodies of two human victims and piece together its entire genome.
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