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11 August 2004

U.S. Military Supports Anthrax Research

U.S. disease agency gets military support in testing anthrax medicine

The U.S. military is supporting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as it works to test and develop a new medication to treat anthrax infection.

A Department of Defense (DoD) August 11 news release says that military personnel will be invited to donate blood plasma for CDC to use in developing a new drug known as anthrax immune globulin, an antibody-based medication.

Military personnel, routinely vaccinated against anthrax to protect them from bioweapons on the battlefield, form the largest group of U.S. citizens who have been vaccinated and thus carry antibodies against the disease caused by a bacterium.

If development of the medicine is successful, and if it passes a variety of safety and efficacy tests, it will be stored for emergency use to treat patients who are infected with anthrax in the future, according to the release.

CDC and DoD efforts to develop the medication stem from anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001. Anthrax spores were distributed through the mail system to several locations around the country, resulting in 22 infections and five deaths. The perpetrator of that bioterror attack is still unknown.

Following is the DoD news release:

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United States Department of Defense

Aug 11, 2004

DoD Assists CDC with Anthrax Plasma Project

The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) today announced that the military will support a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) effort to create a new medication against anthrax. This new medication, anthrax immune globulin (AIG), is an antibody-based medication and could become a critical medical countermeasure for the nation in case of an anthrax attack.

Anthrax-vaccinated military personnel at Army installations will be invited to donate some of their blood plasma to support this effort to create and evaluate AIG. The first installation is Fort Campbell, Ky. Military personnel will receive brochures and oral presentations about the project when they receive anthrax vaccinations beginning today, Aug. 11, 2004, at Ft. Campbell. Other installations will be included at a later date.

The plasma will be used to make the new medication, AIG. If AIG passes several tests, it will be stored for emergency use to treat patients with severe anthrax infection. AIG use would occur under Food and Drug Administration oversight since AIG is considered an investigational new drug. The plasma-donation project is sponsored by CDC.

Most of the people in the United States vaccinated against anthrax are U.S. military personnel. For this reason, the secretary of Health and Human Services asked for Defense Department assistance in requesting plasma from anthrax-vaccinated troops. Whether AIG will be useful in treating severe cases of anthrax is not yet known, but it is under investigation.

The 2001 anthrax attack catalyzed development of AIG. During the 2001 anthrax attack, the mortality rate from severe (inhalational) anthrax disease was 45 percent. We hope that administering AIG with the recommended antibiotic treatment will decrease the death rate of persons with inhalational anthrax during possible future anthrax attacks.

Plasma donors must have received four or more doses of anthrax vaccine. For this program, most plasma donations will begin between 10 and 21 days after vaccination. Donors must pass a physical examination, medical history screening, and blood tests. The goal is for each donor to begin donating plasma at about two weeks after vaccination, and to continue donating plasma once a week for 10 consecutive weeks.

The plasma will be processed by Cangene Corp., working with plasma-donation centers in Clarksville, Tenn., near Fort Campbell; and other locations at a later date.

For more information about this plasma-donation project, visit http://www.anthrax.mil [http://www.anthrax.mil/] , or contact CDCmedia relations at (404) 639-3286.

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