THE SVERDLOVSK ANTHRAX OUTBREAK OF 1979

Matthew Meselson,* Jeanne Guillemin, Martin Hugh-Jones, Alexander Langmuir,** Ilona Popova, Alexis Shelokov, Olga Yampolskaya

Science 266, 1202-1208, 1994.

In April and May 1979, an unusual anthrax epidemic occurred in Sverdlovsk, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Soviet officials attributed it to consumption of contaminated meat. U.S. agencies attributed it to inhalation of spores accidentally released at a military microbiology facility in the city. Epidemiological data show that most victims worked or lived in a narrow zone extending from the military facility to the southern city limit. Farther south, livestock died of anthrax along the zone's extended axis. The zone paralleled the northerly wind that prevailed shortly before the outbreak. It is concluded that the escape of an aerosol of anthrax pathogen at the military facility caused the outbreak.


M. Meselson is in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.  J. Guillemin is in the Department of Sociology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02167, USA. M. Hugh-Jones is in the School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA. A. Langmuir is in the School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. I. Popova is in the Social and Political Sciences Division, Ural State University, Ekaterinburg 620083, Russia. A. Shelokov is in the Government Services Division, Salk Institute, San Antonio, TX 78228, USA. 0. Yampolskaya is in the Botkin Hospital 125101, Russia. 


*To whom correspondence should be addressed.

**Deceased 22 November 1993.