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Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) ( Anthrax )

OTHER NAMES :

Splenic fever, Malignant edema, Woolsorter's disease, Ragpicker's disease

 

B.Anthracis
Gram stain picture of Bacillus anthracis (1500X magnification).

The cells have characteristic squared ends.

The endospores are ellipsoidal shaped and located centrally in the sporangium

The spores are highly refractile to light and resistant to staining.

 


GENERAL INFORMATION :

  • Bacteria; Firmicutes; Bacilli; Bacillales; Bacillaceae; Bacillus; Bacillus cereus group
  • Notifiable Disease : Yes

IN A FEW LINES :

Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by Bacillus anthracis. It occurs in domesticated and wild animals (primarily herbivores, including goats, sheep, cattle, horses, and swine). Humans usually become infected by contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. Infection occurs most commonly via the cutaneous route and only very rarely via the respiratory or gastrointestinal routes.

 

Anthrax was intimately associated with the origins of microbiology and immunology, being the first disease for which a microbial origin was definitively established (in 1876, by Robert Koch). It also was the first disease for which an effective live bacterial vaccine was developed (in 1881, by Louis Pasteur).

 

During the latter half of the 19th century, a previously unrecognized form of anthrax appeared for the first time, namely, inhalational anthrax. This occurred among woolsorters in England, due to the generation of infectious aerosols of anthrax spores under industrial conditions, from the processing of contaminated goat hair and alpaca wool. It probably represents the first described occupational respiratory infectious disease.

 

Owing to the infectiousness of anthrax spores by the respiratory route and the high mortality of inhalational anthrax, the military's concern with anthrax is with its potential use as a biological weapon.

 

Human cases in Belgium are exceptional and are almost exclusively imported cases (last case reported was cutaneous anthrax in a Belgian traveler returning from Botswana in 2005). The last case in a Belgian animal occurred in a cow found dead in 1988.

 

ROLE OF CODA-CERVA :

  • DIAGNOSIS :

CODA-CERVA is the Belgian national reference laboratory (man and animal) for anthrax.

- Isolation (from both clinical and environmental samples)

- Molecular diagnostique (PCR)

- Serological diagnostic in humans (anti-PA ELISA, on request only)

  • RESEARCH :
Monitoring of the immunological status of professionally-exposed humans and study of risk factors.

  • EXPERTISE :

The laboratory has the necessary authorizations and premises to grow the anthrax bacillus in safe conditions. The personnel is experienced with the isolation and identification of B. anthracis from suspect clinical samples (sputum, blood, organs) or environmental samples (dust, wastewater, sludge).


SCIENTIST RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS TOPIC :

Pierre Wattiau


CODA-CERVA PUBLICATION :

2009

- P.Wattiau, Govaerts M., Frangoulidis D., Fretin D., Kissling E., Van Hessche M., China B., Poncin M., Pirenne Y., and Hanquet G. Immunological response of unvaccinated workers exposed to anthrax spores, Belgium. Emerging Infectious Diseases 15 (2009) 1637-1640

2008

- P. Wattiau, Klee SR, Fretin D, Van Hessche M, Ménart M, Franz T, Chasseur C, Butaye P, Imberechts H. Occurrence and genetic diversity of Bacillus anthracis strains isolated in an active wool-cleaning factory. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jul;74(13):4005-4011