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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • meglumine;
  • diatrizoate;
  • Bacillus anthracis;
  • Bacillus cereus;
  • liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry

Abstract:  Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, letters containing Bacillus anthracis were distributed through the United States postal system killing five people. A complex forensic investigation commenced to identify the perpetrator of these mailings. A novel liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry protocol for the qualitative detection of trace levels of meglumine and diatrizoate in dried spore preparations of B. anthracis was developed. Meglumine and diatrizoate are components of radiographic imaging products that have been used to purify bacterial spores. Two separate chromatographic assays using multiple mass spectrometric analyses were developed for the detection of meglumine and diatrizoate. The assays achieved limits of detection for meglumine and diatrizoate of 1.00 and 10.0 ng/mL, respectively. Bacillus cereus T strain spores were effectively used as a surrogate for B. anthracis spores during method development and validation. This protocol was successfully applied to limited evidentiary B. anthracis spore material, providing probative information to the investigators.