Clinical microbiologists facing an anthrax alert

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Microbiological war and terrorist attacks are made to weaken populations by transmitting pathogenic and epidemic microorganisms. These bacteria or viruses are often difficult to diagnose. Anthrax alerts following September 2001 showed that most clinical microbiology laboratories were not adequately prepared, using obsolete diagnostic methods or being too slow to use accurate tools when facing a major threat. Following this period, most microbiology laboratories were prepared for bioterrorism alerts, in order to provide accurate and rapid results, although such events are rare and unexpected. In this review, we describe the organization and preparedness of our clinical microbiology laboratory regarding bioterrorism risk, although its main task is to perform routine diagnostic microbiology tests. To illustrate the difficulties, we briefly describe an anthrax alert.

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