During August 2009–October 2010, a multidisciplinary team investigated 14 outbreaks of animal and human anthrax in Bangladesh to identify the etiology, pathway of transmission, and social, behavioral, and cultural factors that led to these outbreaks. The team identified 140 animal cases of anthrax and 273 human cases of cutaneous anthrax. Ninety one percent of persons in whom cutaneous anthrax developed had history of butchering sick animals, handling raw meat, contact with animal skin, or were present at slaughtering sites. Each year, Bacillus anthracis of identical genotypes were isolated from animal and human cases. Inadequate livestock vaccination coverage, lack of awareness of the risk of anthrax transmission from animal to humans, social norms and poverty contributed to these outbreaks. Addressing these challenges and adopting a joint animal and human health approach could contribute to detecting and preventing such outbreaks in the future.
Cutaneous anthrax outbreaks occurred in Bangladesh from August to October 2009. As part of the epidemiological response and to confirm anthrax diagnoses, serum samples were collected from suspected case patients with observed cutaneous lesions. Anthrax lethal factor (LF), anti-protective antigen (anti-PA) immunoglobulin G (IgG), and anthrax lethal toxin neutralization activity (TNA) levels were determined in acute and convalescent serum of 26 case patients with suspected cutaneous anthrax from the first and largest of these outbreaks. LF (0.005–1.264 ng/mL) was detected in acute serum from 18 of 26 individuals. Anti-PA IgG and TNA were detected in sera from the same 18 individuals and ranged from 10.0 to 679.5 μg/mL and 27 to 593 units, respectively. Seroconversion to serum anti-PA and TNA was found only in case patients with measurable toxemia. This is the first report of quantitative analysis of serum LF in cutaneous anthrax and the first to associate acute stage toxemia with subsequent antitoxin antibody responses.
Bacillus anthracis infection (anthrax) can be highly lethal. Two recent outbreaks related to contaminated mail in the USA and heroin in the UK and Europe and its potential as a bioterrorist weapon have greatly increased concerns over anthrax in the developed world.
This review summarizes the microbiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of anthrax.
Results and conclusions
Anthrax, a gram-positive bacterium, has typically been associated with three forms of infection: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and inhalational. However, the anthrax outbreak among injection drug users has emphasized the importance of what is now considered a fourth disease form (i.e., injectional anthrax) that is characterized by severe soft tissue infection. While cutaneous anthrax is most common, its early stages are distinct and prompt appropriate treatment commonly produces a good outcome. However, early symptoms with the other three disease forms can be nonspecific and mistaken for less lethal conditions. As a result, patients with gastrointestinal, inhalational, or injectional anthrax may have advanced infection at presentation that can be highly lethal. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with gram stain and culture from blood or tissue followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR). While antibiotics are the mainstay of anthrax treatment, use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists are a consideration. Prompt surgical therapy appears to be important for successful management of injectional anthrax.
Bacillus anthracis; Anthrax; Pathogenesis; Diagnosis; Treatment
Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by Bacillus anthracis. Naturally occurring human infection is rare and is generally the result of contact with anthrax-infected animals or animal products.
We examined three patients who had contact with presumed anthrax-infected animal and/or its product and presented with preseptal cellulitis with a localized itchy erythematous papule of the eyelid and non-pitting periorbital edema, followed by ulceration and dark eschar formation. All the three patients responded to intravenous antibiotics, and the lesion resolved leaving scars which caused cicatricial ectropion in all cases.
Anthrax is a rare disease but should be considered in the differential diagnosis of ulcerative (and eschar forming) preseptal cellulitis with a history of contact with anthrax-infected animals or animal products. Furthermore, cicatrization of the eyelids, one of the sequelae of periocular cutaneous anthrax, should be addressed. Urgent case report to the local zoonotic disease and infection control body and other responsible authorities is recommended.
Anthrax; Preseptal cellulitis; Bacillus anthracis; Zoonotic disease; Eye lid
Bacillus anthracis infection is rare in developed countries. However, recent outbreaks in the United States and Europe and the potential use of the bacteria for bioterrorism have focused interest on it. Furthermore, although anthrax was known to typically occur as one of three syndromes related to entry site of (i.e., cutaneous, gastrointestinal, or inhalational), a fourth syndrome including severe soft tissue infection in injectional drug users is emerging. Although shock has been described with cutaneous anthrax, it appears much more common with gastrointestinal, inhalational (5 of 11 patients in the 2001 outbreak in the United States), and injectional anthrax. Based in part on case series, the estimated mortalities of cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalational, and injectional anthrax are 1%, 25 to 60%, 46%, and 33%, respectively. Nonspecific early symptomatology makes initial identification of anthrax cases difficult. Clues to anthrax infection include history of exposure to herbivore animal products, heroin use, or clustering of patients with similar respiratory symptoms concerning for a bioterrorist event. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with Gram stain and culture from blood or surgical specimens followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR or immunohistochemistry). Although antibiotic therapy (largely quinolone-based) is the mainstay of anthrax treatment, the use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists is a consideration.
Bacillus anthracis; diagnosis; pathogenesis; treatment
Because cutaneous anthrax, caused by Bacillus anthracis, is rare in developed countries, sporadic cases of anthrax may easily be overlooked because the diagnosis is often difficult to make. Lower eyelid involvement of anthrax is rare in clinical practice.
A 40-year-old woman with a history of contact with animals was evaluated and treated for a left lower eyelid lesion with a black eschar on it. A diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax had been made and intravenous penicillin had been given by the department of infectious diseases before plastic surgery consultation. Any kind of surgical intervention was delayed for three months. The lesion healed secondarily and the resulting scar did not result in ectropion of the lower eyelid.
Delaying surgery is preferred because it is a safer approach when dealing with anthrax involving the lower eyelid, and secondary healing does not always result in deformity compromising function.
Anthrax; Delayed surgery; Lower eyelid
From August 2009 to October 2010, International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh and the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research together investigated 14 outbreaks of anthrax which included 140 animal and 273 human cases in 14 anthrax-affected villages. Our investigation objectives were to explore the context in which these outbreaks occurred, including livestock rearing practices, human handling of sick and dead animals, and the anthrax vaccination program.
Field anthropologists used qualitative data-collection tools, including 15 hours of unstructured observations, 11 key informant interviews, 32 open-ended interviews, and 6 group discussions in 5 anthrax-affected villages.
Each cattle owner in the affected communities raised a median of six ruminants on their household premises. The ruminants were often grazed in pastures and fed supplementary rice straw, green grass, water hyacinth, rice husk, wheat bran, and oil cake; lactating cows were given dicalcium phosphate. Cattle represented a major financial investment. Since Islamic law forbids eating animals that die from natural causes, when anthrax-infected cattle were moribund, farmers often slaughtered them on the household premises while they were still alive so that the meat could be eaten. Farmers ate the meat and sold it to neighbors. Skinners removed and sold the hides from discarded carcasses. Farmers discarded the carcasses and slaughtering waste into ditches, bodies of water, or open fields. Cattle in the affected communities did not receive routine anthrax vaccine due to low production, poor distribution, and limited staffing for vaccination.
Slaughtering anthrax-infected animals and disposing of butchering waste and carcasses in environments where ruminants live and graze, combined with limited vaccination, provided a context that permitted repeated anthrax outbreaks in animals and humans. Because of strong financial incentives, slaughtering moribund animals and discarding carcasses and waste products will likely continue. Long-term vaccination coverage for at-risk animal populations may reduce anthrax infection.
anthrax; Bangladesh; ruminants; vulture; qualitative
Anthrax, caused by Bacillus anthracis, is primarily a zoonotic disease. Being a public health problem also in several developing countries, its early diagnosis is very important in human cases. In this study, we describe the use of an indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for detection of anti-lethal factor (anti-LF) IgG in human serum samples. A panel of 203 human serum samples consisting of 50 samples from patients with confirmed cutaneous anthrax, 93 samples from healthy controls from areas of India where anthrax is nonendemic, 44 samples from controls from an area of India where anthrax is endemic, and 16 patients with a disease confirmed not to be anthrax were evaluated with an anti-LF ELISA. The combined mean anti-LF ELISA titer for the three control groups was 0.136 ELISA unit (EU), with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 0.120 to 0.151 EU. The observed sensitivity and specificity of the ELISA were 100% (95% CI, 92.89 to 100%) and 97.39% (95% CI, 93.44 to 99.28%), respectively, at a cutoff value of 0.375 EU, as decided by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis. The likelihood ratio was found to be 49.98. The positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), efficiency, and Youden's index (J) for reliability of the assay were 92.5%, 100%, 98.02%, and 0.97, respectively. The false-positive predictive rate and false-negative predictive rate of the assay were 2.61% and 0%. The assay could be a very useful tool for early diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax cases, as antibodies against LF appear much earlier than those against other anthrax toxins in human serum samples.
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a major public health problem in Bangladesh with the highest disease burden in the Mymensingh District. The disease is transmitted by sand fly bites, but it may also be transmitted through blood transfusions. No information is available about the prevalence of Leishmania infection among blood donors in Bangladesh; therefore we aimed to investigate this question.
The study was carried out in the Blood Transfusion Department of Mymensingh Medical College Hospital. One thousand one hundred and ninety five adult healthy blood donors attending in this department were enrolled in the study from August 2010 to April 2011. After obtaining written consent, socio-demographic data and a detailed health history were collected. The medical officer in the unit performed a complete physical examination to exclude any acute or chronic diseases, which was followed by sero-diagnosis for exposure to Leishmania by rK39 strip test using finger prick blood. Blood donors with a positive rK39 strip test underwent a PCR test for detection of leishmania DNA in their peripheral blood buffy coat.
Eighty two percent of enrolled blood donors were male (n=985) and 18% (n=210) were female. The mean age of blood donors was 27 years (SD, 7.95 years). The majority of donors were literate and had mid-to-higher socioeconomic condition reflected by household conditions reported by the subject. Only 2.6% had a family member with VL in the past. Three blood donors were positive for leishmania infection by rK39 strip test (0.3%, 95%CI, 0.05%-0.73%). None of these 3 had active leishmania infection as demonstrated by PCR analysis. During six months of follow up, neither rK39 positive (n=3) nor rK39 negative (n=1192) donors developed VL.
The prevalence of Leishmania donovani infection among blood donors attending the Blood Transfusion Department of Mymensingh Medical College Hospital was very low. Therefore the chance for transmission of VL through blood transfusion is negligible. We believe that the National VL Elimination Program does not need set up routine screening for Leishmania donovani infection in blood transfusion departments located in VL endemic areas of Bangladesh.
Visceral leishmaniasis; Kala-azar; Blood donors; Transfusion; Leishmania donovani; Bangladesh
Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by Bacillus anthracis. It is potentially fatal and highly contagious disease. Herbivores are the natural host. Human acquire the disease incidentally by contact with infected animal or animal products. In the 18th century an epidemic destroyed approximately half of the sheep in Europe. In 1900 human inhalational anthrax occured sporadically in the United States. In 1979 an outbreak of human anthrax occured in Sverdlovsk of Soviet Union. Anthrax continued to represent a world wide presence. The incidence of the disease has decreased in developed countries as a result of vaccination and improved industrial hygiene. Human anthrax clinically presents in three forms, i.e. cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalational. About 95% of human anthrax is cutaneous and 5% is inhalational. Gastrointestinal anthrax is very rare (less than 1%). Inhalational form is used as a biological warefare agent. Penicillin, ciprofloxacin (and other quinolones), doxicyclin, ampicillin, imipenem, clindamycin, clarithromycin, vancomycin, chloramphenicol, rifampicin are effective antimicrobials. Antimicrobial therapy for 60 days is recommended. Human anthrax vaccine is available. Administration of anti-protective antigen (PA) antibody in combination with ciprofloxacin produced 90%-100% survival. The combination of CPG-adjuvanted anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) plus dalbavancin significantly improved survival.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; Zoonotic disease; Contagious disease; Cutaneous anthrax; Inhalational anthrax; Gastrointestinal anthrax; Human anthrax
Anthrax is a soil-borne disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and is considered a neglected zoonosis. In the country of Georgia, recent reports have indicated an increase in the incidence of human anthrax. Identifying sub-national areas of increased risk may help direct appropriate public health control measures. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the spatial distribution of human anthrax and identify environmental/anthropogenic factors associated with persistent clusters.
A database of human cutaneous anthrax in Georgia during the period 2000–2009 was constructed using a geographic information system (GIS) with case data recorded to the community location. The spatial scan statistic was used to identify persistence of human cutaneous anthrax. Risk factors related to clusters of persistence were modeled using a multivariate logistic regression. Areas of persistence were identified in the southeastern part of the country. Results indicated that the persistence of human cutaneous anthrax showed a strong positive association with soil pH and urban areas.
Anthrax represents a persistent threat to public and veterinary health in Georgia. The findings here showed that the local level heterogeneity in the persistence of human cutaneous anthrax necessitates directed interventions to mitigate the disease. High risk areas identified in this study can be targeted for public health control measures such as farmer education and livestock vaccination campaigns.
Anthrax is a zoonotic bacterial disease that occurs nearly worldwide. Despite a large number of countries reporting endemic anthrax, persistence of the disease appears to be associated with specific ecological factors related to soil composition and climatic conditions. Human cases are most often associated with handling infected livestock or contaminated meat and most cases are in cutaneous form (skin infections). Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country of Georgia has undergone major restructuring in land management and livestock handling and anthrax remains a serious public health risk. Few studies have evaluated the local spatial patterns of human anthrax. Here we identify areas on the landscape where human cutaneous anthrax persisted over the last decade. Persistence was found to be associated with both anthropogenic and environmental factors including soil pH and livestock density. These findings aid in the establishment of spatial baseline estimates of the disease and allow public health officials to adopt targeted anthrax control strategies, such as livestock vaccination campaigns and farmer education.
Outbreaks of Bacillus anthracis in the US and Europe over the past 10 years have emphasized the health threat this lethal bacteria poses even for developed parts of the world. In contrast to cutaneous anthrax, inhalational disease in the US during the 2001 outbreaks and the newly identified injectional drug use form of disease in the UK and Germany have been associated with relatively high mortality rates. One notable aspect of these cases has been the difficulty in supporting patients once shock has developed. Anthrax bacilli produce several different components which likely contribute to this shock. Growing evidence indicates that both major anthrax toxins may produce substantial cardiovascular dysfunction. Lethal toxin (LT) can alter peripheral vascular function; it also has direct myocardial depressant effects. Edema toxin (ET) may have even more pronounced peripheral vascular effects than LT, including the ability to interfere with the actions of conventional vasopressors. Additionally, ET also appears capable of interfering with renal sodium and water retention. Importantly, the two toxins exert their actions via quite different mechanisms and therefore have the potential to worsen shock and outcome in an additive fashion. Finally, both toxins have the ability to inhibit host defense and microbial clearance, possibly contributing to the very high bacterial loads noted in patients dying with anthrax. This last point is clinically relevant since emerging data has begun to implicate other bacterial components such as anthrax cell wall in the shock and organ injury observed with infection. Taken together, accumulating evidence regarding the potential contribution of LT and ET to anthrax-associated shock supports efforts to develop adjunctive therapies that target both toxins in patients with progressive shock.
anthrax; lethal toxin; edema toxin; shock; myocardial function
In October 2001, the first inhalational anthrax case in the United States since 1976 was identified in a media company worker in Florida. A national investigation was initiated to identify additional cases and determine possible exposures to Bacillus anthracis. Surveillance was enhanced through health-care facilities, laboratories, and other means to identify cases, which were defined as clinically compatible illness with laboratory-confirmed B. anthracis infection. From October 4 to November 20, 2001, 22 cases of anthrax (11 inhalational, 11 cutaneous) were identified; 5 of the inhalational cases were fatal. Twenty (91%) case-patients were either mail handlers or were exposed to worksites where contaminated mail was processed or received. B. anthracis isolates from four powder-containing envelopes, 17 specimens from patients, and 106 environmental samples were indistinguishable by molecular subtyping. Illness and death occurred not only at targeted worksites, but also along the path of mail and in other settings. Continued vigilance for cases is needed among health-care providers and members of the public health and law enforcement communities.
Cutaneous anthrax is usually easy to diagnose provided the doctor thinks of anthrax. The lesion most likely to be confused with anthrax is accidental vaccinia. Orf lacks the characteristic central eschar. Cutaneous anthrax responds to antibiotic therapy: rare complications are meningitis and hypoxic hypertension. Pulmonary anthrax is highly fatal: its incidence is related to the number and size of anthrax-containing particles which are inhaled. Artificial mists containing lethal doses of anthrax bacilli can be manufactured. Intestinal anthrax may present as gastroenteritis or as ulceration of the intestine with obstruction and perforation.
On October 31, 2001, in New York City, a 61-year-old female hospital employee who had acquired inhalational anthrax died after a 6-day illness. To determine sources of exposure and identify additional persons at risk, the New York City Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and law enforcement authorities conducted an extensive investigation, which included interviewing contacts, examining personal effects, summarizing patient’s use of mass transit, conducting active case finding and surveillance near her residence and at her workplace, and collecting samples from co-workers and the environment. We cultured all specimens for Bacillus anthracis. We found no additional cases of cutaneous or inhalational anthrax. The route of exposure remains unknown. All environmental samples were negative for B. anthracis. This first case of inhalational anthrax during the 2001 outbreak with no apparent direct link to contaminated mail emphasizes the need for close coordination between public health and law enforcement agencies during bioterrorism-related investigations.
B. anthracis; inhalational anthrax; bioterrorism; research
Anthrax caused by Bacillus anthracis in humans is rare. Two recent outbreaks that were intentionally caused occurred among postal employees, politicians, and journalists in the United States. This has caused tremendous fear, and our experience with these "anthrax incidents" has changed our views on the natural history of this disease in people. In this paper, we review the lifecycle and biology of this micro-organism. Anthrax that occurs from a weaponized form of this micro-organism has a specific clinical presentation that requires a suspicion of anthrax exposure to be diagnosed. New methods of testing for anthrax have been developed and may simplify diagnosis in the future. The range of illness caused by B. anthracis from the molecular level to the clinical symptoms is discussed. We also review the diagnostic criteria and differential diagnosis as well as treatment of this condition.
Background: Bacillus anthracis may usually cause three forms of anthrax: inhalation, gastrointestinal and cutaneous. The gastrointestinal (GI) anthrax develops after eating contaminated meat. Thus, in this paper were report 5 cases of intestinal anthrax.
Case Presentation: We report a case series of intestinal anthrax, with history of consumption of raw or poorly cooked liver of sheep. One patient was female and 4 were males with the age range between 17 and 26 years. All patients were admitted with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Examination revealed abdominal distention on the right lower quadrant or diffuse tenderness. Laboratory examination in all patients showed leukocytosis with polymorphonuclear of >80%. Because of the unclear and questionable diagnosis, exploratory laparotomy was performed on several patients, invariably showing an abundant yellowish and thick ascitic fluid, soft hypertrophied mesenteric lymph nodes (3-5 cm) mostly in the ileocecal region, and substantial edema involving one segment of small bowel, cecum or ascending colon. Anthrax was diagnosed on the epidemiologic basis (ingestion history of half cooked liver of sheep) or microbiologic (microscopy with bacterial culture) and pathologic testing (post surgery in four patients or autopsy in one patient). With appropriate treatment, 4 survived and one patient died.
Conclusion: Gastrointestinal anthrax is characterized by rapid onset, fever, ascitis and septicemia. The symptoms can mimic those seen in an acute surgical abdomen. Rapid diagnosis and prompt initiation of antibiotic therapy and then exploratory laparotomy (right hemicolectomy) are keys to survival.
Anthrax; Gastrointestinal; Bacillus anthracis
Anthrax is an ancient disease caused by the gram-positive Bacillus anthracis; recently, it has gained much attention because of its potential use in biologic warfare. Anthrax infection occurs in three forms: cutaneous, inhalational, and gastrointestinal. The last type results from ingestion of poorly cooked contaminated meat. Intestinal anthrax was widely known in Lebanon in the 1960s, when a series of >100 cases were observed in the Bekaa Valley. We describe some of these cases, introduce the concept of the surgical management of advanced intestinal anthrax, and describe some of the approaches for treatment.
anthrax; intestinal; Lebanon; ascites; spore-forming organisms; synopsis
In October 2001, two inhalational anthrax and four cutaneous anthrax cases, resulting from the processing of Bacillus anthracis–containing envelopes at a New Jersey mail facility, were identified. Subsequently, we initiated stimulated passive hospital-based and enhanced passive surveillance for anthrax-compatible syndromes. From October 24 to December 17, 2001, hospitals reported 240,160 visits and 7,109 intensive-care unit admissions in the surveillance area (population 6.7 million persons). Following a change to reporting criteria on November 8, the average of possible inhalational anthrax reports decreased 83% from 18 to 3 per day; the proportion of reports requiring follow-up increased from 37% (105/286) to 41% (47/116). Clinical follow-up was conducted on 214 of 464 possible inhalational anthrax patients and 98 possible cutaneous anthrax patients; 49 had additional laboratory testing. No additional cases were identified. To verify the limited scope of the outbreak, surveillance was essential, though labor-intensive. The flexibility of the system allowed interim evaluation, thus improving surveillance efficiency.
Bacillus anthracis; anthrax; surveillance; bioterrorism
Heroin may have been accidentally contaminated by an animal-derived source along a major drug trafficking route.
In December 2009, two unusual cases of anthrax were diagnosed in heroin users in Scotland. A subsequent anthrax outbreak in heroin users emerged throughout Scotland and expanded into England and Germany, sparking concern of nefarious introduction of anthrax spores into the heroin supply. To better understand the outbreak origin, we used established genetic signatures that provided insights about strain origin. Next, we sequenced the whole genome of a representative Bacillus anthracis strain from a heroin user (Ba4599), developed Ba4599-specific single-nucleotide polymorphism assays, and genotyped all available material from other heroin users with anthrax. Of 34 case-patients with B. anthracis–positive PCR results, all shared the Ba4599 single-nucleotide polymorphism genotype. Phylogeographic analysis demonstrated that Ba4599 was closely related to strains from Turkey and not to previously identified isolates from Scotland or Afghanistan, the presumed origin of the heroin. Our results suggest accidental contamination along the drug trafficking route through a cutting agent or animal hides used to smuggle heroin into Europe.
Anthrax; heroin; canSNP; epidemic; outbreak; Scotland; Bacillus anthracis; epidemiology; Trans-Eurasian; phylogenetic; bacteria
From October 4 to November 2, 2001, the first 10 confirmed cases of inhalational anthrax caused by intentional release of Bacillus anthracis were identified in the United States. Epidemiologic investigation indicated that the outbreak, in the District of Columbia, Florida, New Jersey, and New York, resulted from intentional delivery of B. anthracis spores through mailed letters or packages. We describe the clinical presentation and course of these cases of bioterrorism-related inhalational anthrax. The median age of patients was 56 years (range 43 to 73 years), 70% were male, and except for one, all were known or believed to have processed, handled, or received letters containing B. anthracis spores. The median incubation period from the time of exposure to onset of symptoms, when known (n=6), was 4 days (range 4 to 6 days). Symptoms at initial presentation included fever or chills (n=10), sweats (n=7), fatigue or malaise (n=10), minimal or nonproductive cough (n=9), dyspnea (n=8), and nausea or vomiting (n=9). The median white blood cell count was 9.8 X 10(3)/mm(3) (range 7.5 to 13.3), often with increased neutrophils and band forms. Nine patients had elevated serum transaminase levels, and six were hypoxic. All 10 patients had abnormal chest X-rays; abnormalities included infiltrates (n=7), pleural effusion (n=8), and mediastinal widening (seven patients). Computed tomography of the chest was performed on eight patients, and mediastinal lymphadenopathy was present in seven. With multidrug antibiotic regimens and supportive care, survival of patients (60%) was markedly higher (<15%) than previously reported.
When swallowed, anthrax spores may cause lesions from the oral cavity to the cecum. Gastrointestinal anthrax is greatly underreported in rural disease-endemic areas of the world. The apparent paucity of this form of anthrax reflects the lack of facilities able to make the diagnosis in these areas. The spectrum of disease, ranging from subclinical infection to death, has not been fully recognized. In some community-based studies, cases of gastrointestinal anthrax outnumbered those of cutaneous anthrax. The oropharyngeal variant, in particular, is unfamiliar to most physicians. The clinical features of oropharyngeal anthrax include fever and toxemia, inflammatory lesion(s) in the oral cavity or oropharynx, enlargement of cervical lymph nodes associated with edema of the soft tissue of the cervical area, and a high case-fatality rate. Awareness of gastrointestinal anthrax in a differential diagnosis remains important in anthrax-endemic areas but now also in settings of possible bioterrorism.
anthrax; anthrax classification; anthrax epidemiology; anthrax diagnosis; bioterrorism
The lack of identified exposures in 2 of the 11 cases of bioterrorism-related inhalation anthrax in 2001 raised uncertainty about the infectious dose and transmission of Bacillus anthracis. We used the Wells-Riley mathematical model of airborne infection to estimate 1) the exposure concentrations in postal facilities where cases of inhalation anthrax occurred and 2) the risk for infection in various hypothetical scenarios of exposure to B. anthracis aerosolized from contaminated mail in residential settings. These models suggest that a small number of cases of inhalation anthrax can be expected when large numbers of persons are exposed to low concentrations of B. anthracis. The risk for inhalation anthrax is determined not only by bacillary virulence factors but also by infectious aerosol production and removal rates and by host factors.
Anthrax; Air microbiology; Infection; Risk; Inhalation exposure; Lethal Dose 50; Ventilation
Protective antigen (PA)-based anthrax vaccines acting on toxins are less effective than live attenuated vaccines, suggesting that additional antigens may contribute to protective immunity. Several reports indicate that capsule or spore-associated antigens may enhance the protection afforded by PA. Addition of formaldehyde-inactivated spores (FIS) to PA (PA-FIS) elicits total protection against cutaneous anthrax. Nevertheless, vaccines that are effective against cutaneous anthrax may not be so against inhalational anthrax. The aim of this work was to optimize immunization with PA-FIS and to assess vaccine efficacy against inhalational anthrax. We assessed the immune response to recombinant anthrax PA from Bacillus anthracis (rPA)-FIS administered by various immunization protocols and the protection provided to mice and guinea pigs infected through the respiratory route with spores of a virulent strain of B. anthracis. Combined subcutaneous plus intranasal immunization of mice yielded a mucosal immunoglobulin G response to rPA that was more than 20 times higher than that in lung mucosal secretions after subcutaneous vaccination. The titers of toxin-neutralizing antibody and antispore antibody were also significantly higher: nine and eight times higher, respectively. The optimized immunization elicited total protection of mice intranasally infected with the virulent B. anthracis strain 17JB. Guinea pigs were fully protected, both against an intranasal challenge with 100 50% lethal doses (LD50) and against an aerosol with 75 LD50 of spores of the highly virulent strain 9602. Conversely, immunization with PA alone did not elicit protection. These results demonstrate that the association of PA and spores is very much more effective than PA alone against experimental inhalational anthrax.
The CDC recommend 60 days of oral antibiotics combined with a three-dose series of the anthrax vaccine for prophylaxis after potential exposure to aerosolized Bacillus anthracis spores. The anthrax vaccine is currently not licensed for anthrax postexposure prophylaxis and has to be made available under an Investigational New Drug protocol. Postexposure prophylaxis based on antibiotics can be problematic in cases where the use of antibiotics is contraindicated. Furthermore, there is a concern that an exposure could involve antibiotic-resistant strains of B. anthracis. Availability of alternate treatment modalities that are effective in prophylaxis of inhalation anthrax is therefore highly desirable. A major research focus toward this end has been on passive immunization using polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies against B. anthracis toxin components. Since 2001, significant progress has been made in isolation and commercial development of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies that function as potent neutralizers of anthrax lethal toxin in both a prophylactic and therapeutic setting. Several new products have completed Phase I clinical trials and are slated for addition to the National Strategic Stockpile. These rapid advances were possible because of major funding made available by the US government through programs such as Bioshield and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Continued government funding is critical to support the development of a robust biodefense industry.
antibiotic treatment; biodefense funding; inhalation anthrax; lethal factor; medical countermeasures; prophylactic antibodies; protective antigen; vaccination