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Anthrax

Post by admin @ shivam on Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:12 pm

Anthrax is a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It normally affects cattle, sheep, goats, etc.

It is acquired from spores that remain viable in the environment (e.g. soil) for decades always able to germinate into active bacteria if they get into the body of a susceptible host.

Humans can be infected by Bacillus anthracis, and if the spores enter by way of the lungs, the disease can be quickly fatal. These properties have made it one of the agents favored by bioterrorists.

It is not the tissue-destructiveness of the active bacteria that is the problem but rather the toxin that they secrete. (This is like the illnesses caused by the bacilli that cause diphtheria, tetanus, and botulism.) The bacteria are susceptible to antibiotics (Ciprofloxacin ["Cipro"®️] is effective but so are others such as doxycycline), but they must be given early before the toxin can produce symptoms.

Once the toxin is in the system, it can be neutralized by giving antitoxin antibodies [conferring so-called passive immunity]. Presently these are harvested from donors who had received anthrax vaccine in the armed forces. But there is hope that monoclonal antibodies can be manufactured that will be able to provide protection.

The anthrax toxin is composed of three different proteins (encoded by genes on one of the two plasmids in the organism):

* PA ("protective antigen") It gets this name because it provides the epitopes that elicit protective antibodies in the anthrax vaccine.
* LF ("lethal factor")
* EF ("edema factor")

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