Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Aims: To evaluate potential exposure to Bacillis anthracis (Ba) spores in sampling/decontamination workers in the aftermath of an anthrax terror attack. Methods: Fifty six serum samples were obtained from workers involved in environmental sampling for Ba spores at the American Media, Inc. (AMI) building in Boca Raton, FL after the anthrax attack there in October 2001. Nineteen sera were drawn from individuals both pre-entry and several weeks after entrance into the building. Nine sera each were drawn from unique individuals at the pre-entry and follow up blood draws. Thirteen donor control sera were also evaluated. Individuals were surveyed for Ba exposure by measurement of serum Ba anti-protective antigen (PA) specific IgG antibodies using a newly developed fluorescent covalent microsphere immunoassay (FCMIA). Results: Four sera gave positive anti-PA IgG results (defined as anti-PA IgG concentrations > the mean mg/ml anti-PA IgG from donor control sera (n = 13 plus 2 SD which were also inhibited > 85% when the serum was pre-adsorbed with PA). The positive sera were the pre-entry and follow up samples of two workers who had received their last dose of anthrax vaccine in 2000. Conclusion: It appears that the sampling/decontamination workers of the present study either had insufficient exposure to Ba spores to cause the production of anti-PA IgG antibodies or they were exposed to anthrax spores without producing antibody. The FCMIA appears to be a fast, sensitive, accurate, and precise method for the measurement of anti-PA IgG antibodies.