Anthrax (Salem Health: Cancer)
Cancers treated: Melanoma, breast cancer, colon cancer
Delivery routes: Injection
How this substance works: Anthrax infection begins when the spores of the bacteria are inhaled or come into contact with the skin. Anthrax toxin, produced by the bacteria, is the primary virulent factor. The toxin is activated by furin, a protein found in all living cells. Anthrax toxin may be genetically engineered to eschew furin and instead target only cells with high levels of urokinase, a protein produced prolifically by human tumor cells.
The anthrax toxin contains three proteins that are innocuous when separate but work together to create a lethal environment for cells. Protective antigen (PA) is an anthrax protein that adheres to a host cell surface and bores a hole into it. The other two proteins released by the bacteria, edema factor (EF) and lethal factor (LF), are too large to penetrate the outside of the cell unless PA chaperones them inside. For cellular intoxication, PA is always needed; once inside the cell, only EF or LF is needed to speed up the reactions that ultimately lead to rendering inactive parts of the immune system and finally to cell suicide (apoptosis). The term “anthrax lethal toxin,” when used in cancer therapy research, refers to the combination of PA and LF. PA is the substance in the anthrax vaccine.
Cancer researchers hope to harness the cellular...
(The entire section is 303 words.)
Anthrax (Forensic Science)
The bacterium Bacillus anthracis resides in soil, and, like other members of the bacterial genus Bacillus, can make a highly resistant resting cell known as an endospore. Endospores can withstand heat, desiccation, harsh chemicals, and ultraviolet radiation and can last in soils for centuries. Anthrax, the disease caused by B. anthracis, afflicts herbivorous animals, but human anthrax infections result from contact with infected animals or animal products.
(The entire section is 67 words.)
Types of Anthrax Infections (Forensic Science)
Anthrax is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of B. anthracis endospores or, in the case of cutaneous anthrax, by contact between damaged skin and B. anthracis. Inhalation of endospores causes inhalation anthrax, which typically occurs among workers in textile or tanning industries who handle contaminated animal products such as wool, hair, and hides. The incubation period of inhalation anthrax ranges from one to six days, and the disease follows a two-stage progression. After infection, the patient develops a dry cough, muscle weakness, tiredness, fever, and pressure in the middle of the chest. The second stage begins with the onset of respiratory distress and typically culminates in death within twenty-four hours. Inhalation anthrax has a mortality rate of 95 percent if untreated.
Gastrointestinal anthrax results from the ingestion of undercooked, contaminated meat. Two to seven days after ingestion, abdominal pain and fever occur, followed by vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Gastrointestinal bleeding is observed in some severe cases, and dissemination of the disease throughout the body also results. Fluid loss can result in shock and kidney failure. Approximately 50 percent of cases of gastrointestinal anthrax are lethal.
Cutaneous anthrax results from invasion of the skin by B. anthracis. If the skin is damaged by scrapes, cuts, or insect bites, endospores can breach the...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
Detection of Anthrax (Forensic Science)
Growing B. anthracis from a blood sample is the best way to demonstrate an anthrax infection in patients who have not yet been given antibiotics. In patients who have begun antibiotic therapy, serological methods that detect antibodies made by the immune system against the bacterium are efficacious. Blood samples from a person who has died from anthrax should yield copious quantities of relatively large, rod-shaped bacteria that are encapsulated and easily visualized with polychrome methylene blue stains.
Automated detection systems (ADS’s) can determine whether B. anthracis endospores have been released into a setting. The BSM-2000 (Universal Detection Technology), for example, continuously samples the air and heats it. Captured, heated spores release dipicolinic acid (DPA), a compound unique to bacterial endospores. DPA binds to terbium ions (Tb3+), which, together, fluoresce green under ultraviolet light. Other ADS’s use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to test the air for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequences specific to B. anthracis.
(The entire section is 155 words.)
Treatment and Prevention of Anthrax (Forensic Science)
Several antibiotics are effective in the treatment of anthrax infections. High-dose intravenous penicillin G, ciprofloxacin, and doxycycline are typically quite effective. Preventive treatments with oral ciprofloxacin or doxycycline for six weeks are also effective. Anyone exposed to anthrax should begin treatment immediately because the disease can become untreatable with the passage of time.
BioThrax (made by Bioport Corporation) is a vaccine against anthrax. It consists of an extract prepared from a non-disease-causing strain of B. anthracis. It is administered as three inoculations given under the skin at two-week intervals, followed by booster injections at six, twelve, and eighteen months, after which yearly boosters are necessary to maintain immunity. BioThrax vaccinations are 93 percent effective in preventing anthrax infections.
When bodies or clothes are contaminated with B. anthracis endospores, personal contact can spread the disease. Washing with antibacterial soap and water and treating the wastewater with bleach can rid contaminated bodies of all endospores. Burning contaminated clothing and the corpses of those who have died from anthrax is an effective means of liquidating anthrax from the environment. Burial does not kill endospores. Endospores of B. anthracis released into the air are easily removed by means of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) or...
(The entire section is 290 words.)
Anthrax as a Biological Weapon (Forensic Science)
Many nations have examined the potential of B. anthracis as a biological weapon. Growing B. anthracis is extremely easy, but processing the endospores into a form that is easily disseminated is extremely difficult. The first attempts to use anthrax as a biological weapon utilized rather crude methods. During World War II (1942), the British military experimented with anthrax on Gruinard Island. This experiment so thoroughly contaminated the site that it was quarantined for the next fifty years. Britain then manufactured some five million “N-bombs,” which were anthrax-laced explosive devices, to attack German livestock, but the bombs were never used. In 1986, the British government hired a private company to disinfect the soil of Gruinard Island. The company first carted away the island’s topsoil in sealed containers and then used 280 tons of formaldehyde mixed with 2,000 tons of seawater to disinfect the soil that remained. In 1990, the British defense minister declared the island safe.
At Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, the U.S. Army developed a special form of anthrax endospores for use as a biological weapon. Such weaponized endospores lack the ionic charges that ordinarily cause them to stick together. Consequently, the spores are easily dispersed as a fine powder that can float for miles on the wind. On November 25, 1969, an executive order from President Richard M. Nixon...
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Anthrax and Microbial Forensics (Forensic Science)
Microbial forensics is concerned with the isolation and identification of any microbes used during bioterrorist attacks. Upon arrival at the site of an attack, the microbial forensics team must remove all persons from the site and decontaminate them. Sample collections taken from the air, vents, countertops, sinks, floors, and other surfaces can help the scientists to determine the source of the infection. All samples collected must be properly identified and stored in tamper-proof containers to preserve the chain of custody.
By identifying the exact strain of B. anthracis involved in an anthrax outbreak, experts can determine whether the disease has occurred as the result of a bioterrorism attack or as a naturally acquired infection. Various strains of B. anthracis show very little DNA sequence variation, but because the entire genome of this organism has been completely sequenced, scientists are able to use PCR to detect single base differences between strains, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and thus provide a fingerprint for each B. anthracis strain. If the strains found at the scene of an attack and in the infected individuals are the same, then the agent used in the bioterrorism attack is confirmed. This information can be used in determining both the source of the biological weapon employed and the best treatment options. Molecular forensics identified the...
(The entire section is 240 words.)
Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Alibek, Ken, with Stephen Handelman. Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World—Told from Inside by the Man Who Ran It. London: Hutchinson, 1999. Provides an insider’s view of the extensive Soviet biological weapons program. Includes map and photographs.
Decker, Janet. Anthrax. New York: Chelsea House, 2003. Presents a detailed examination of the dynamics of anthrax epidemics and the influence that medical responses can have on them.
Guillemin, Jeanne. Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Noted medical anthropologist discusses the Sverdlovsk anthrax tragedy in depth, including information on the Soviet Union’s subsequent cover-up.
Holmes, Chris. Spores, Plague, and History: The Story of Anthrax. Dallas: Durban House, 2003. A medical epidemiologist surveys the historical effects of anthrax on human society.
Miller, Judith, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad. Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Three investigative journalists from The New York Times relate the deeply disturbing findings of their research into the history of biological weapons and the status of such weapons as of 2001.
Wheelis, Mark, Lajos Rózsa, and Malcolm Dando, eds. Deadly Cultures: Biological...
(The entire section is 217 words.)
History (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
A disease killing cattle in 1491 b.c.e., likely to have been anthrax, is recounted in the Book of Genesis. In Exodus 9, the Lord instructs Moses to take “handfuls of ashes of the furnace” and “sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of the Pharaoh.” Moses performed the deed and “it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast.” This may represent the first use of anthrax as a biological weapon. Greek peasants tending goats suffered from anthrax; the Greek word from which “anthrax” derives means coal, referring to the coal-black center of the skin lesion.
Anthrax became the first pathogenic bacillus to be seen microscopically when described in infected animal tissue by Aloys-Antoine Pollender in 1849. Studies by Robert Koch in 1876 resulted in the four postulates that form the basis for the study of infectious disease causation. In 1881, Louis Pasteur demonstrated the protective efficacy of a vaccine for sheep made with his attenuated vaccine strain.
(The entire section is 160 words.)
The Disease (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Anthrax is primarily a disease of herbivorous animals that can spread to humans through association with domesticated animals and their products. Herbivorous animals grazing in pastures with soil contaminated with anthrax endospores become infected when the spores gain entry through abrasions around the mouth and germinate in the surrounding tissues. Omnivores and carnivores can become infected by ingesting contaminated meat. Human infection is often a result of a close association with herbivores, particularly goats, sheep, or cattle (including their products of hair, wool, and hides).
The most common clinical illness in humans is skin infection (cutaneous anthrax), acquired when spores penetrate through cuts or abrasions. After an incubation period of three to five days, a papule develops, evolves into a vesicle, and ruptures, leaving an ulcer that dries to form the characteristic black scab. Inhaled spores reach the alveoli of the lung, where they are engulfed by macrophages and germinate into bacilli. Bacilli are carried to lymph nodes, where release and multiplication are followed by bloodstream invasion and the infection’s spread to other parts of the body, including the brain, where it causes meningitis. The symptoms of the illness, which begin a few days after inhalation, resemble those of the flu and may be associated with substernal discomfort. Cough, fever, chills, and respiratory distress with raspy, labored...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
The Anthrax Bacterium (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
The Bacillus anthracis bacterium is large (1-1.2 × 3-10 microns), encapsulated, gram-positive, and rod-shaped. It produces spores and exotoxins (toxins that are released from the cells). Spores are ellipsoidal or oval (1-2 microns) and located within the bacilli. The endospores have no reproductive significance, as only one spore is formed by each bacillus and a germinated spore yields a single bacillus. Spores form in soil and dead tissue and with no measurable metabolism may remain dormant for years. They are resistant to drying, heat, and many disinfectants.
The genetic composition of B. anthracis differs little from the other Bacillus species, and studies have demonstrated remarkable similarity within B. anthracis strains. The resting stage of sporulation may have contributed to the extremely similar DNA of all strains of B. anthracis. The circular chromosomal DNA is composed of 5.2 million base pairs and codes for metabolic function, cell repair, and the sequential process of sporulation. Comparative genome sequencing has uncovered only four differences between the single-copy chromosomal DNA of two strains. In addition to the single-copy DNA, comprising the majority of the genome, a remaining portion consists of repetitive DNA sequences that are either dispersed or clustered into satellites. The satellite repeats occur in tandem. The number of tandem repeats varies...
(The entire section is 335 words.)
Bioterrorism (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Anthrax spores can be easily packaged to act as aerosoled (airborne) agents of war, and the genome may be bioengineered to alter the virulence or effectiveness of current vaccines. Knowledge of the genetic composition of B. anthracis has facilitated the investigation of anthrax attacks. In 1993, the Aum Shinrikyo cult aerosoled a suspension of anthrax near Tokyo, Japan. Molecular studies of the genome from this strain revealed it to be devoid of the pXO2 plasmid (Sterne strain), explaining why only a bad odor rather than illness was the fortunate consequence. In 2001, analysis of material from letter-based attacks with anthrax in the United States demonstrated the source to be the Ames strain. Furthermore, as a result of the extensive laboratory studies associated with these attacks, a sensitive and specific three-target (two-plasmid and one-chromosome) assay has been developed for rapid detection and identification of B. anthracis, including bioengineered strains, from both patients and the environment.
(The entire section is 152 words.)
Further Reading (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Dixon, Terry C., et al. “Anthrax.” New England Journal of Medicine 341, no. 11 (September 9, 1999): 815-826. Details the disease and its pathogenesis.
Emerging Infectious Diseases 8, no. 10 (October, 2002). This issue is devoted to an examination of bioterrorism-related anthrax, and it summarizes the investigation following the 2001 bioterrorism attacks in the United States.
Holmes, Chris. Spores, Plagues, and History: The Story of Anthrax. Dallas: Durban House, 2003. Holmes, a medical epidemiologist, recounts the history of anthrax and its effects on human beings from the time of Moses through its use of the disease as a weapon of bioterrorism in the twenty-first century.
Miller, Judith, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad. Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. This book, written by three New York Times reporters, explores the ideas and actions of scientists and politicians involved in the past, present, and future of germ warfare. Includes forty-two pages of notes and a select bibliography.
Read, Timothy D., et al. “Comparative Genome Sequencing for Discovery of Novel Polymorphisms in Bacillus anthracis.” Science 296, no. 5575 (June 14, 2002): 2028-2033. Describes the complete sequencing of the anthrax genome.
Tucker, Amy E., and Jimmy D. Ballard. “Anthrax Toxin and...
(The entire section is 231 words.)
Web Sites of Interest (Genetics & Inherited Conditions)
Center for Biosecurity. http://www.upmc-biosecurity.org/website/index.html. The Web site of the center, which is located at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, contains a fact sheet on Bacillus anthracis and other information about anthrax.
Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response. http://www.bt.cdc.gov. This comprehensive site offers information on how to recognize illness caused by anthrax exposure and more. Available in Spanish.
Nature. http://www.nature.com. The online version of the premier science journal Nature includes links to research articles on the genetics of anthrax.
World Health Organization. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241547536_eng.pdf. This is the online version of the fourth edition of the organization’s book Anthrax in Humans and Animals (2008).
(The entire section is 125 words.)
Causes and Symptoms (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The bacterium that causes anthrax is a large, encapsulated, gram-positive rod which produces exotoxins and spores. The capsule and exotoxins are important virulence factors, and both are necessary for disease to occur. Spores are ellipsoidal or oval and are located within the bacilli. The endospores have no reproductive significance, as only one spore is formed by each bacillus and a germinated spore yields a single bacillus. Spores form in soil or dead tissue and with no measurable metabolism may remain dormant for years. They are resistant to drying, heat, and many disinfectants.
Anthrax is primarily a disease of herbivorous animals that has spread to humans through association with domesticated animals and their products. Herbivorous animals grazing in pastures with soil contaminated with endospores become infected when the spores gain entry through abrasions around the mouth and germinate in the surrounding tissues. Omnivores and carnivores can become infected by ingesting contaminated meat. Human infection is often a result of a close association with herbivores, particularly goats, sheep, or cattle (including their products of hair, wool, and hides). Anthrax has been an uncommon infection in the United States, and only 233 human cases were reported from 1955 to 1987.
The most common clinical illness in humans is skin infection acquired when spores penetrate through cuts or abrasions. After an incubation...
(The entire section is 389 words.)
Treatment and Therapy (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Antibiotic treatment of cutaneous anthrax does not change the course of the evolving skin lesion, but it reduces edema (swelling) and systemic symptoms such as fever, headache, and malaise which may be part of the illness. Antibiotic therapy is also initiated to prevent complications from spreading infection and, most important, bloodstream invasion. The mortality rate of cutaneous infection with appropriate antibiotic treatment is less than 1 percent. Virtually all patients with inhalation anthrax will die if untreated. Antibiotic therapy, especially if administered during the early part of this biphasic illness, combined with other intensive supportive measures, may save up to 50 percent of patients, although long-term effects may be noted. The paucity of gastrointestinal anthrax cases has resulted in limited mortality data, but mortality has been estimated to be as high as 50 percent, with disease limited to the mouth and throat having a better prognosis. If recovery ensues, the disease subsides within two weeks. Antibiotic therapy is indicated for all cases.
Initial antibiotic therapy is with either ciprofloxacin or doxycline, plus one or two additional antibiotics for more severe cases until the patient is stable. Prolonged antibiotic therapy (one hundred days) is indicated for more serious illness. Antibiotics may also be used to prevent illness in the case of possible exposure, and an anthrax vaccine is available...
(The entire section is 222 words.)
Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
A disease killing cattle in 1491 b.c.e., likely to have been anthrax, is recounted in the Book of Genesis. In Exodus 9, the Lord instructs Moses to take “handfuls of ashes of the furnace” and “sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of the Pharaoh.” Moses performed the deed, and “it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man and upon beast.” This may represent the first use of anthrax as a biological agent. Greek peasants tending goats suffered from anthrax. Anthrax in Greek means “coal,” which refers to the coal-black center of the skin lesion.
Anthrax was the first pathogenic bacillus to be seen microscopically when it was described in infected animal tissue by Aloys-Antoine Pollender in 1849. Studies by Robert Koch in 1876 resulted in the four postulates which form the basis for the study of infectious disease causation. In 1881, Louis Pasteur demonstrated the protective efficacy of a vaccine for sheep made with his attenuated vaccine strain.
Anthrax spores can be easily packaged to act as aerosolized agents of war, and the genome may be bioengineered to alter the virulence of anthrax or the ability of current vaccines to protect against it. In 1979, anthrax spores were accidentally released from a Soviet biowarfare facility in the city of Sverdlovsk, resulting in at least seventy-seven human cases, with sixty-six deaths. In the United States, a bioterrorism attack with...
(The entire section is 291 words.)
For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Bartlett, John G., Thomas V. Inglesby, Jr., and Luciana Borio. “Management of Anthrax.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 35 (October 1, 2002): 851-858.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Bioterrorism-Related Anthrax.” Emerging Infectious Diseases 8 (October, 2002): 1013-1183.
Dixon, Terry C., et al. “Anthrax.” New England Journal of Medicine 341 (September 9, 1999): 815-826.
Kyrincou, Demetrios N., Alys Adamski, and Nanci Khardori. “Anthrax: From Antiquity and Obscurity to a Front-runner in Bioterrorism.” Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 20 (2006): 227-251.
(The entire section is 69 words.)
Anthrax (Encyclopedia of Medicine)
Anthrax is a bacterial infection caused by Bacillus anthracis that primarily affects livestock but that can occasionally spread to humans, affecting either the skin, intestines, or lungs. In humans, the infection can often be treated, but it is almost always fatal in animals.
Anthrax is most often found in the agricultural areas of South and Central America, southern and eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. In the United States, anthrax is rarely reported, however, cases of animal infection with anthrax are most often reported in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. The bacterium and its associated disease get their name from the Greek word meaning "coal" because of the characteristic coal-black sore that is the hallmark of the most common form of the disease.
During the 1800s, in England and Germany, anthrax was known either as "wool-sorter's" or "ragpicker's" disease because workers contracted the disease from bacterial spores present on hides and in wool or fabric fibers. Spores are the small, thick-walled dormant stage of some bacteria that enable them to survive for long periods of time under adverse conditions. The first anthrax vaccine was perfected in 1881 by Louis Pasteur.
(The entire section is 1666 words.)
Anthrax (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
Anthrax, a zoonotic disease, is one of the earliest diseases known to man. Worldwide public health surveillance data are not accurate for either animal or human anthrax up to the 1950s, but it is probable that thousands of human cases occurred annually. Since the 1950s, it is estimated that between 2,000 and 5,000 cases of human anthrax have occurred annually.
Anthrax is seen in three forms in humans: cutaneous, inhalational, and gastrointestinal. Cutaneous anthrax begins as a blister on the skin that, within two to six days, develops into a vesicle which, when ruptured, reveals a depressed ulcer covered by a black eschar, or scab. The patient may have a mild fever and slight edema surrounding the lesion. Within one or two weeks the lesion gradually becomes covered with tissue, eventually resulting in a small scar. Treatment is with appropriate antibiotics and hygienic care of the lesion. The mortality rate without treatment is approximately 5 percent.
Inhalational anthrax is a systemic toxic disease that involves the mediastinal lymph nodes. It begins with mild respiratory symptoms, and within one or two days, fever, perspiration, and a falling blood pressure develop rapidly. The result is a toxic shock-like condition, which is followed by death in almost 100 percent of cases. Rapid intravenous treatment with antibiotics may reduce the chance of fatality.
Gastrointestinal anthrax can involve either the oropharyngeal area, which results in swelling, redness, and ulcers, or the gastrointestinal tract, with the development of ulcers, hemorrhage, and edema. With appropriate treatment, the patient recovers within approximately one week. The mortality rate is 5 to 20 percent.
Diagnosis of anthrax is made by clinical history; culturing of secretions from lesions, blood, or spinal fluid; and by epidemiological association with contaminated animal products such as wool, goat hair, hides, dried bones, and tissue from animals that have died from anthrax. Serological tests can also be diagnostic. Meningitis may develop with any form of the disease.
There is a safe and effective human anthrax vaccine. Health education is also important for people that may be exposed to diseased animals or their products. Cutaneous anthrax primarily results from occupational exposure to contaminated animal products. Such exposure may occur in the manufacturing of textiles using goat hair or wool, in handling animal hides or rendered products, and in attending to sick animals. Inhalational anthrax results from the inhalation of spores related to industrial sources. Gastrointestinal anthrax results from eating contaminated meat. A major concern today is the threat of the use of the bacterium that causes anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, as an agent in bioterrorism or biological warfare.
Animal anthrax occurs primarily in herbivores and results from ingestion of Bacillus anthracis in soil or feed. Infected animals develop gastrointestinal anthrax with systemic infection and die with secretions issuing from their bodily orifices. There is a safe and effective animal vaccine, and antibiotic treatment can be curative if started early enough.
PHILIP S. BRACHMAN
(SEE ALSO: Communicable Disease Control; Terrorism; Veterinary Public Health; Zoonoses)
Anthrax (World of Microbiology and Immunology)
Anthrax refers to a pulmonary disease that is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. This disease has been present since antiquity. It may be the sooty "morain" in the Book of Exodus, and is probably the "burning wind of plague" that begins Homer's Iliad. Accounts by the Huns during their sweep across Eurasia in 80 A.D. describe mass deaths among their horse and cattle attributed to anthrax. These animals, along with sheep, are the primary targets of anthrax. Indeed, loss to European livestock in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries stimulated the search for a cure. In 1876, Robert Koch identified the causative agent of anthrax.
The use of anthrax as a weapon is not a new phenomenon. In ancient times, diseased bodies were used to poison wells, and were catapulted into cities under siege. In modern times, research into the use of anthrax as a weapon was carried out during World Wars I and II. In World War II, Japanese and German prisoners were subjects of medical research, including their susceptibility to anthrax. Allied efforts in Canada, the U.S. and Britain to develop anthrax-based weapons were also active. Britain actually produced five million anthrax cakes at the Porton Down facility, to be dropped on Germany to infect the food chain.
In non-deliberate settings, humans acquire anthrax from exposure to the natural reservoirs of the microorganism; livestock such as sheep or cattle or wild animals. Anthrax has been acquired by workers engaged in shearing sheep, for example.
Human anthrax can occur in three major forms. Cutaneous anthrax refers to the entry of the organism through a cut in the skin. Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs when the organism is ingested in food or water. Finally, inhalation anthrax occurs when the organism is inhaled.
All three forms of the infection are serious, even lethal, if not treated. With prompt treatment, the cutaneous form is often cured. Gastrointestinal anthrax, however, can still be lethal in 255% of people who contract it. Inhalation anthrax is almost always fatal.
The inhalation form of anthrax can occur because of the changing state of the organism. Bacillus anthracis can live as a large "vegetative" cell, which undergoes cycles of growth and division. Or, the bacterium can wait out the nutritionally bad times by forming a spore and becoming dormant. The spore is designed to protect the genetic material of the bacterium during hibernation. When conditions are conducive for growth and reproduction the spore resuscitates and active life goes on again. The spore form can be easily inhaled. Only 8,000 spores, hardly enough to cover a snowflake, are sufficient to cause the pulmonary disease when they resuscitate in the warm and humid conditions deep within the lung.
The dangers of an airborne release of anthrax spores is well known. British open-air testing of anthrax weapons in 1941 on Gruinard Island in Scotland rendered the island uninhabitable for five decades. In 1979, an accidental release of a minute quantity of anthrax spores occurred at a bioweapons facility near the Russian city of Sverdlovsk. At least 77 people were sickened and 66 died. All the affected were some four kilometers downwind of the facility. Sheep and cattle up to 50 kilometers downwind became ill.
Three components of Bacillus anthracis are the cause of anthrax. First, the bacterium can form a capsule around itself. The capsule helps shield the bacterium from being recognized by the body's immune system as an invader, and helps fend off antibodies and immune cells that do try to deal
As the bacteria gain a foothold, toxins enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body causing destruction of blood cells and tissues. The damage can prove to be overwhelming to treatment efforts and death occurs.
Anthrax infections are difficult to treat because the initial symptoms are similar to other, less serious infections, such as the flu. By the time the diagnosis is made, the infection can be too advanced to treat. A vaccine for anthrax does exist. But to date, only those at high risk for infection (soldiers, workers in meat processing plants, anthrax research scientists) have received the vaccine, due to the possible serious side effects that can occur. Work to establish a safer vaccine is underway. The edema factor may be a potential target of a vaccine. Another promising target is the protective antigen of the capsule. If the action of this antigen could be blocked, the bacteria would not be able to hide inside host cells, and so could be more effectively dealt with by the immune response and with antibiotics.
See also Anthrax, terrorist use of as a biological weapon; Bioterrorism
Anthrax (World of Forensic Science)
Forensic science can involve the investigation of an outbreak of illness or the death of an individual that is caused by a microorganism. Some microbes are especially toxic, and so are of forensic concern. A good example is anthrax.
While anthrax is an ancient bacterial disease, the disease again sprang to prominence following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In the months following these attacks, letters containing a powdered form of Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, were mailed to representatives of the U.S. government and the media, among others. Five people who acquired the disease died.
Bacillus anthracis can enter the body via a wound in the skin (cutaneous anthrax), via contaminated food or liquid (gastrointestinal anthrax), or can be inhaled (inhalation anthrax). The latter in particular can cause a very serious, even lethal, infection.
The disease has been present throughout recorded history. Its use as a weapon stretches back centuries. Hundreds of years ago, bodies of anthrax victims were dumped into wells, or were catapulted into enemy encampments. Development of anthrax-based weapons was pursued by various governments in World Wars I and II, including those of the United States, Canada, and Britain.
Humans naturally acquire anthrax from exposure to livestock such as sheep or cattle or wild animals. The animals are reservoirs of the anthrax bacterium.
While all three types of anthrax infections are potentially serious, prompt treatment usually cures the cutaneous form. Even with prompt treatment, the gastrointestinal form is lethal in 25%5% of those who become infected. The inhaled version of anthrax is almost always lethal.
When Bacillus anthracis is actively growing and dividing, it exists as a large "vegetative" cell. But, when the environment is threatening, the bacterium can form a spore and become dormant. The spore form can be easily inhaled. Approximately 8,000 spores, hardly enough to cover a snowflake, are sufficient to cause the inhalation form of anthrax when the spores resuscitate and begin growth in the lungs.
The growing Bacillus anthracis cells have several characteristics that make them so infectious. First, the formation of a capsule around the bacterium can mask the surface from recognition by the body's immune system. The body can be less likely to mount an immune response to the invading bacteria. Also, the capsule helps fend off antibodies and immune cells that do respond. This protection can allow the organism to multiply to large numbers.
The capsule also contains a protein that protects the bacterium. This protective antigen dissolves other protein molecules that form part of the outer coating of host cells. This allows the bacterium to evade the host's immune response by burrowing inside host cells such as the epithelial cells that line the lung.
A toxic component called lethal factor actively destroys the host's immune cells. Finally, another toxic factor called the edema factor (edema is the build up of fluid in tissues) disables a host molecule called calmodulin. Calmodulin regulates many chemical reactions in the body.
With the various toxic factors, Bacillus anthracis is able to overcome the attempts of the host to deal with the infection. Bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. The destruction of blood cells and tissues can be lethal.
The early symptoms of anthrax infections are similar to other, less serious infections, such as the flu. By the time the diagnosis is made, the infection can be too advanced to treat. This can make the recognition of a deliberate anthrax attack difficult to recognize until large numbers of casualties have resulted. While the bacteria can be killed by
A vaccine to anthrax does exist, although the possibility of serious side effects has limited its use to only those at high risk for infection (i.e., soldiers, workers in meat processing plants, anthrax researchers). Vaccine researchers are exploring the possibility that the edema factor and the capsule could be exploited as targets of vaccines. The idea is that the vaccines would stop the bacteria from getting into host cells. This would make it easier for the immune response to kill the invading bacteria.
SEE ALSO Antibiotics; Biological warfare, advanced diagnostics; Biological weapons, genetic identification; Bioterrorism; Vaccines.
Anthrax (Contemporary Musicians)
Heavy metal group
Cemented by their mutual interest in hard-core punk and heavy metal, comic books and skateboarding, guitarist Scott Ian, bassist Dan Lilker, singer Neil Turbin, guitarist Greg Walls, and drummer Greg D'Angelo in 1981 sparked a blaze that would set the heavy metal/thrash world on fire. Their first step beyond the musical framework of the genre combined the fast and furious pace of hard-core with the slightly more melodic sound of heavy metal. Such stylistic experimentation would later become a habit that would contribute to Anthrax's longevity.
Anthrax toured small-town clubs and rehearsed non-stop during its first two years. In that interim, guitarist Dan Spitz, whose brother David played in Black Sabbath, replaced Walls, and drummer Charlie Benante replaced D'Angelo. Benante became the band's primary songwriter, occasional guitarist, and art director. Then, in 1983, after getting managers Jon and Martha Zazula to listen to their demo, they signed with Megaforce Records and released the single "Soldiers of Metal." They continued to tour small venues, performing with fellow thrashers Metallica and Manowar.
Anthrax struggled with touring, recording, and promotion for three years before they released their first album, Fistful of Metal, in 1984 on Megaforce in the United States and Music for Nations in Europe. The album attracted a small following, who generally believed they had discovered the fastest metal music ever heard. Benante and guitarist Ian also used those lean years to develop a concurrent splinter group, Stormtroopers of Death (SOD), an even faster hardcore outfit marked by a hearty sense of humor. SOD also released its debut, Speak English or Die, in 1984.
Also that year, bass player Lilker decided to part ways with Anthrax, later going on to join thrash combo Nuclear Assault. Roadie Frank Bello took over for Lilker. And in August, while the group was in the studio working on the follow-up to Fistful of Metal, Ian fired singer Neil Turbin. Joey Belladonna stepped into the vocal slot, giving a new range, style, and polish to Anthrax's sound.
With the new lineup in place, Anthrax finished recording the five-song EP Armed and Dangerous in 1985. The mini-album included a cover of punk heroes the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen." The set earned Anthrax the interest of Island Records, which signed the band and put them to work with producer Carl Canedy on their second full-length album, Spreading the Disease.
Reaching number 113 on Billboard's pop chart, Spreading the Disease, spurred on by the single "Madhouse," spread Anthrax's popularity across the world the following year; in 1986 the band played their first United Kingdom show at London's Hammersmith Palais. They went on to tour Europe and Scandinavia with up-and-coming headbangers Metallica.
The band left their New York City dwellings behind to record their next album in Miami and the Bahamas with producer Eddie Kramer. Anthrax released Among the Living in May of 1987. Lyrics included topics ranging from American Indians to comic-book character Judge Dredd. The disc hit the United States charts at number 62 and the United Kingdom charts at 18, then earned the band their first gold album. Three singles nurtured Among the Living's successI Am the Law," "Indians," and the heavy metal/rap hybrid "I'm the Man."
"I'm the Man" was a leap beyond the musical boundaries of heavy metal. Though Anthrax had enjoyed a glancing relationship with hip-hop for some time, the stylistic synthesis was a daring move. Soon the band's ascent in the rock world paralleled the revival of the comic-book heroes depicted in their lyrics.
Anthrax had finally hit the surface of worldwide visibility, but they refused to let go of their heavy metal designation in spite of the borders they continued to cross. "We're a heavy metal band, that's what we are," Ian told Melody Maker. "We just don't like people to think we're a heavy metal band like all those other bands. We want people to take notice of the fact that we're different."
Their identity firmly entrenched, Anthrax ventured further down the road toward mass success in 1988 with the release of the three-song EP I'm the Man. They recorded the set at a show in Dallas in 1987; it eventually went platinum. Later in the year, the band released their next record, State of Euphoria. The title suggested the condition of fans as they left an Anthrax performance.
Euphoria included "Make Me Laugh," a tirade against television evangelism; a cover of the French rock band Trust's "Antisocial"; "Now It's Dark," inspired by the David Lynch film Blue Velvet; and "Misery Loves Company," penned in response to the Stephen King novel Misery.
Aside from the pantheon of popular culture, the band focused on social and political upheaval, while still managing to maintain the comic appeal they had begun to develop earlier. Ian outlined his personal agenda for social renewal to Melody Maker, venturing, "I think there should be a limited number of zombies in circulation, so that people could give vent to their frustrations by beating them up with bats. I think that could be socially useful."
In an effort to prevent exhaustion and their own frustrations, Anthrax took a three-month vacation from recording, touring, and each other to regain their creative energieshe first in three years. Then, just as they began their next project, a major setback hit the band: in January of 1990, Anthrax narrowly escaped injury in a serious fire at their studio. The bandmembers formed a human chain to try to save their equipment, but the conflagration ultimately caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to Anthrax's gear and destroyed the entire studio.
Regrouped after Fire
Picking up the pieces, the band moved their recording sessions to Los Angeles in late February to finish the work they'd begun on the new album. Persistence of Time hit the street in 1990. The Salvador Dali painting "Persistence of Memory" had inspired Charlie Benante's cover design for the album. Persistence of Time would be nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Heavy Metal Performance category in 1991. In the meantime, Anthrax hit the road supporting heavy metal giants Iron Maiden on their "No Prayer on the Road" tour.
Their next step beyond the heavy metal norm was taken a year later and gained the band recognition, admiration, and a whole lot of press; Anthrax released yet another, so-called EPespite its ten-song lengthf covers and B-sides called The Attack of The Killer B's. The disc included covers of Kiss' "Parasite," Trust's "Sects," and Discharge's "Protest and Survive." But the most notable offering was "Bring the Noise," by rebel rappers Public Enemy. Public Enemy's Chuck D joined Anthrax in the studio and later onstage, contributing his trademark commanding vocals. Billboard declared the union "a stroke of brilliance," and reported, "The combination of hip-hop grooves, turntable scratching and crunching guitar riffs and rolling drums is mind blowing."
Anthrax then left Island to sign a $10 million contract with the Elektra label. Almost before the ink on the deal was dry, the band canned singer Joey Belladonna, citing "creative differences," and a year later hired singer John Bush, formerly of the heavy metal band Armored Saint.
The Bush Administration
"It was frightening to replace a frontman," Benante told RIP magazine. "It was frightening to risk sitting there for a year, not being able to get anyone. It was frightening to have done it after signing this big contract with Elektra. But, that makes it all the more worth it. If we'd stayed in one place, I doubt I'd still be in this band. I doubt there'd even be a band! Then, again, we've never been afraid to try out different things, though we never seem to get credit. Like, we wore shorts and thermals in the past, and now that's accepted fashion. But when we did it, people hated us for it!"
Anthrax released Sound of White Noise, their first record with their new singer, in 1993. Their sound was markedly transformed by Bush's vocals and writing. "For us, it's a big deal to make a record where you don't know what you're getting," Ian said in a 1993 Elektra press biography. "These tracks are completely different from each other, yet it's all Anthrax. It shows the types of music and ideas that we're into."
The set included "Potter's Field," about abortion, "Only" and "A Thousand Points of Hate," about interpersonal relations, and "Black Lodge," inspired by another David Lynch work, the television series Twin Peaks. In fact, Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti made a guest appearance on the song. "It's just different enough to remind you that within the circumscribed parameters of thrash etiquette, Anthrax has always taken chances," Rolling Stone said of the album. "And, how many bands in any genre have successfully reinvented themselves a decade into their career? In that sense, Sound of White Noise is a powerful comeback from a group that never went away."
After more than ten grueling years of thrashing across the world, Anthrax insisted that their endurance came from the faith of their fans. "We're following the Iron Maiden path," guitarist Spitz declared in Screamer. "We don't rely on radioplay or videos or album sales. We rely on touring and word-of-mouth. We play what we like to play and write what we like to write. We don't have to change for anybody. That's why the kids believe in us." Spitz was voted out of the group in 1995.
Anthrax released Stomp 442 on Elektra in 1995. The band felt that the label did not promote the album with as much fervor as Sound of White Noise, and left. "It just turned into a terrible situation. It just kind of took two years out of our lives," Ian told Steve Knopper in Billboard. The group signed with Ignition Records, a joint venture with Tommy Boy Records, and released Volume 8: The Threat Is Real in 1998. According to Knopper, the album was "even more intense and thrashing than usual" and contained "some strange new experiments" for the group. Ian told Knopper that on the album "there are a lot of dynamics and a lot of ups and downs, yet there's a cohesiveness. It all sounds like Anthrax. We've never had a record with that much diversity and this much cohesiveness. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it works."
Anthrax participated briefly in a package tour that included Mötley Crüe and Megadeath in 2000 and began recording another album in 2001. Guitarist Rob Caggiano joined the group in 2002, and We've Come For You All was released in 2003; the group planned to tour in Europe and the United States.
With the threat of national anthrax attacks following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the band acknowledged its association, by name, with the infectious disease on its website: "In the 20 years we've been know as 'Anthrax,' we never thought the day would come that our name would actually mean what it really means Before the tragedy of September 11th (m)ost people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia, and death To be associated with these things we are against is a strange and stressful situation." The band said that they hoped future events would not make changing their name necessary.
Fistful of Metal, Megaforce, 1984.
Armed and Dangerous (EP), Megaforce, 1985.
Spreading the Disease, Island, 1986.
Among the Living, Island, 1987.
I'm the Man (EP), Island, 1988.
State of Euphoria, Island, 1988.
Persistence of Time, Island, 1990.
Attack of the Killer B's, Island, 1991.
(Contributor) Last Action Hero (soundtrack), Sony, 1993.
Sound of White Noise, Elektra, 1993.
(Contributor) Airheads (soundtrack), Arista, 1994.
Live: The Island Years, Island, 1994.
Stomp 442, Elektra, 1995.
Volume 8: The Threat Is Real, Tommy Boy, 1998.
Return of the Killer A's: The Best Of, Beyond, 1999.
(Contributor) Twisted Forever, Koch, 2001.
We've Come For You All, Nuclear Blast, 2003.
Graff, Gary, and Daniel Durchholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC/CLIO, 1991.
Billboard, May 29, 1993; June 20, 1998.
Circus, December 31, 1988.
Guitar Player, July 1993.
Hit Parader, September 1993.
Melody Maker, November 28, 1987; September 17, 1988; February 11, 1989; February 10, 1990; August 18, 1990; August 25, 1990; June 22, 1991; December 21, 1991.
Metro Times (Detroit, MI), July 7, 1993.
Modern Drummer, June 1993.
Pulse!, July 1993; September 1993.
RIP, August 1993.
Rolling Stone, May 13, 1993; June 24, 1993.
Screamer, November 1988; April 1990; September 1990.
Spin, July 1993.
"Anthrax," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 27, 2003).
Anthrax Official Website, http://www.anthrax.com (February 27, 2003).
Nuclear Blast Records, http://www.nuclearblast.de (February 27, 2003).
Additional information was obtained from Elektra Records press materials, 1993.