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Anthrax as a biological weapon

Anthrax as a biological weapon

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Published by kedar karki

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Published by: kedar karki on Jun 05, 2008
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A "Gram positive" bacterium means it has the type of cell walls which are harmless, unlike the cell walls of "Gramnegative" bacteia, which attack tissue. Therefore, anthrax canonly attack tissue by producing a special toxin that it excretes.A few cells or spores do not produce enough toxin to start aninfection. Studies have apparently determined that, typically,ten thousand anthrax spores must be inhaled to start aninfection. Anthrax normally attacks the lungs, becauseit must lodge in vulnerable tissue.
 Naturally occurring anthrax is a disease acquired following contact withanthrax-infected animals or anthrax-contaminated animal products. Infectiongains entrance in the body by ingestion, inhalation or through the skin. Thedisease most commonly occurs in herbivores, which are infected by ingestingspores from the soil. Biting flies and other insects have often been found toharbour anthrax organisms but the transmission is mechanical only.
Anthrax in Humans
Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalationand gastrointestinal. The clinical picture varies depending on how the diseasewas contracted, but symptoms usually occur within seven days.
The bacterium enters a cut or abrasion onthe skin, the infection begins as a papule resembling an insect bite but within 1-2 days develops into a vesicle and then a painless ulcer, usually 1-3 cm indiameter, with a characteristic blank necrotic area in the centre. Lymph glandsin the adjacent area may swell. Deaths are rare with appropriate antimicrobialtherapy.
After initial respiratory trouble, thesymptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalationanthrax usually results in death in 1-2 days after onset of the acute symptoms.On entry of the spores, macrophages try to engulf many of them. Survivingspores are transported via lymphatica to mediastinal lymph nodes, wheregermination may occur up to 60 days later. The process responsible for thedelayed transformation of spores to vegetative cells is poorly understood butwell documented. The toxins are released by the colonizing bacteria leading tohaemorrhage, oedema, and necrosis.Production of the anthrax toxin is mediated by a temperature-sensitive plasmid. The toxin consists of three distinct antigenic components. They are-theoedema factor, which is necessary for the oedema producing activity of thetoxin: Factor-II is the protective antigen (PA), because it induces protectiveantitoxic antibodies in guinea pigs: Factor-III is known as the lethal factor  because it is essential for the lethal effects of the anthrax toxin. Once toxin production has reached critical threshold, death occurs even if sterility of the
Dr kedar karki.(M.V.St. Preventive Medicine)
 bloodstream is achieved with antibiotics. Based on primate data, it has beenestimated that for humans the LD 50 (lethal dose sufficient to kill 50% of  persons exposed to it) is 2500 to 55,000 inhaled anthrax spores.
This is analogous to cutaneousanthrax but occurs on the intestinal mucosa. As in cutaneous anthrax, theorganisms probably invade the mucosa through a pre-existing lesion. The bacteria spread from the mucosal lesion to the lymphatic system. Intestinalanthrax results from the ingestion of poorly cooked meat from infected animals.Intestinal anthrax, although extremely rare in developed countries, has anextremely high mortality rate.Meningitis due to B. anthracis is a very rare complication that may resultfrom a primary infection elsewhere.
Anthrax is worldwide in distribution although the incidence varies withthe soil, climate and the efforts put forward to suppress it. The characteristicepidemiology of anthrax in developed countries shows the simultaneousoccurrence of multicentric foci of infection. In many areas where the diseasehas not been recorded in last few years or eve for a few decades, many suddendeaths occur without observed illness under favourable climatic conditions. Intropical and subtropical countries with high annual rainfall the infection persistsin the soil and frequent anthrax outbreaks are commonly encountered.In some African countries the disease occurs every summer and reachesits peak severity in years with heavy rainfall. Wild fauna, including hippos,elephants etc. die in large numbers. It is probable that the predators act as inertcarriers of the infection.Large anthrax epizootics in herbivores have been reported: during a 1945outbreak in Iran, one million sheep died. Animal vaccination programs havereduced drastically the animal mortality from the disease. However, anthraxspores continue to be documented in soil samples from throughout the world.Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions where it occurs inanimals. These include South and Central America, Southern and EasternEurope, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. When anthrax affectshumans, it is usually due to an occupational exposure to infected animals or their products. Workers who are exposed to dead animals and animal products(industrial anthrax) from other countries where anthrax is more common may become infected with B. anthracis. Anthrax in animal infection are receivedfrom Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
The recent publicity surrounding the cases of anthrax in the USA hascaused alarm among the general public about the potential terrorist use of  biological warfare. Some other pathogens, identified in Western defense circlesamong the top 10 biological agents, are highly infectious. These, such as

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