Anthrax is caused by the bacterium called Bacillus anthracis which is a spore forming, rod shaped bacterium. Central spores develop under all growth conditions except the living body of the host. It is classified as Bacilli.
The most common form would be the cutaneous form.
however as we saw during the 2011, terrorist attacks, the pulmonary form is very real and a serious threat to life. It affects the lungs and the GI tract.
The last form is the meningitis form that affects the central nervous system.
Typically spread from humans to livestock and can be transmitted via air, soil, animal hides, and food. The dormant spores of Anthrax can live in soil and animal products, such as hides (leather) for years and it is not easy to kill by heat or cold. Once spores are eaten by livestock, they are activated very quickly, and the bacteria then reproduces. The animal typically dies and the bacteria is returned to the soil and water as spores.
Diagnosis typically requires the element of suspicion for a physician to diagnose anthrax. Diagnosis begins with culturing the bacterium and performing a gram stain. A motility test and the lack of hemolysis on blood agar can also be used to diagnose anthrax.
The main virulence factors are it’s polypeptide capsule and what is referred to as a tripartite toxin which is composed of three separate proteins. One protein is called edema factor the second protein is protective antigen, and the third is lethal factor which causes massive inflammation and shock.
There is a vaccine that contains live spores and a toxoid prepared from a special strain of B anthracis used to protect livestock in areas of high anthrax cases. There is also a purified toxoid that is recommended for humans that have frequent contact with livestock or animal products that could potentially carry the bacteria.
The preferred treatment for anthrax is antibiotics such as penicillin,...
Cited: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services
Cowan, M. K. (2012). Microbiology a Systems Approach . Mcgraw Hill. P306
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