Anthrax is a killer disease of warm-blooded animals, transmissible to humans. It is also known as malignant pustule or woolsorter’s disease. Historians think it originated in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
An estimated 2,000 to 20,000 human cases of anthrax occur globally each year.
Anthrax is caused by infection with Bacillus anthracis, a highly toxic rod-shaped bacteria.
Usually, this spore-forming bacteria, which occur naturally in soil, enter the body through a wound in the skin.
Other causes include consuming contaminated meat and inhaling spores.
Animals, mainly herbivores, get it through contaminated grass, soil and water.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), humans generally acquire this acute disease directly or indirectly from infected animals, or occupational exposure to infected or contaminated animal products.
Flies also appear to play a significant role in explosive outbreaks of the disease, as per the WHO.
Bacillus anthracis bacterial spores can lie dormant for decades then emerge in greater concentrations after rain storms, flooding or excavation.
When used as a biological weapon, B. anthracis can be spread basically by two ways:
- by dissemination in the air (e.g. by aircraft similar to those used to spread agricultural herbicides), with the formation of a colourless and odourless aerosol, and therefore absolutely invisible;
- by impregnation of commonly used materials and objects, such as writing paper, fabrics or textiles, in the form of a light dust.
Itchy blisters, nausea, chills, loss of appetite, stomach pain, skin bumps, fever, vomiting, skin sores, diarrhea, swelling in the neck, headache, fainting, overwhelming fatigue and red eyes are some symptoms of anthrax.
Skin Lesion Caused By Anthrax
Anthrax is diagnosed using bacterial cultures from infected tissues.
If diagnosed early on, treatment and recovery from the disease is possible.
Antibiotics and Antitoxin
Physicians have various options to treat people with anthrax, including antibiotics and antitoxin.
Penicillin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin are some antibiotics used to treat anthrax.
Scientists from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) conducted a study in 2021.
During the study, all mice infected with anthrax spores were completely protected after treatment with a pegylated enzyme known as PEG-CapD-CPS334C.
Control of anthrax in livestock herds is necessary to prevent its spread to humans.
If you suspect this infectious disease in an animal, notify a government veterinary officer immediately.
If the disease is suspected the farm has to be isolated and other animals vaccinated.
The dead animal has to be disposed of appropriately so that contamination of the soil is minimised.
Farmers are advised to dip their goats before taking them for grazing outside the farm.
Anthrax vaccine is recommended for adults 18 through 65 years of age who are at risk of exposure to Bacillus anthracis.
In October 2019, FDA cleared an investigational new drug (IND) application for BlueWillow Biologics' BW-1010 vaccine. This drug would be the company’s next-generation anthrax vaccine candidate.
A group of Indian scientists developed a vaccine against anthrax in June 2019. It is superior over existing vaccines as it can generate immune response to anthrax toxin as well as its spores rather than the toxin alone.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Srikanth R
Srikanth R (author) on November 21, 2019:
Garry Saunders from South Africa on November 21, 2019:
Thanks for teaching us about Anthrax. My hope is that our antibiotics can keep up with the constantly mutating bacteria genes.