skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 204067 Find in a Library
Title: Fingerprinting Bioterror Agents
Journal: Law Enforcement Technology  Volume:31  Issue:1  Dated:January 2004  Pages:68,70,73
Author(s): Douglas Page
Date Published: January 2004
Page Count: 5
Type: Program/Project Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article describes a novel "fingerprinting" technique currently under development by government researchers that may enable investigators to trace the origin of anthrax and other chemical or biological agents.
Abstract: The system, which is being designed in the Chemical Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, takes advantage of stable isotopes, which are found throughout nature. The technique uses the abundance of natural stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and other light elements found in biological and chemical materials to identify their source. The abundance of these stable isotopes of both natural and manmade compounds varies depending on three factors: starting raw materials and substrates used, manufacturing and culturing processes, and geographic locations of the production sites. The research project has discovered that microbial agents cultured under controlled conditions inherit the isotopic compositions of growth media and substrates in predictable ways. Because the isotopic composition of organic substrates and media water most likely varies according to the source and manufacturing processes of raw materials and the geographic locations, even bacteria of the same strain can be readily distinguished on the basis of their isotopic compositions. This may also be the case for various batches of biological and chemical agents produced in the same laboratories if raw materials and/or processes differ. The use of stable-isotope fingerprints of multi-elements should make it possible to distinguish most, if not all, chemical and biological agents.
Main Term(s): Domestic Preparedness
Index Term(s): Biological weapons; Forensic sciences; Investigative techniques; Terrorist tactics; Terrorist weapons
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.