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Anthrax Overview

Anthrax is one of the oldest recorded diseases of grazing animals such as sheep and cattle.1 Since the disease is spread by spores, infection of humans can result from contact with infected animal hides, fur, wool, leather or contaminated soil. Anthrax is now fairly rare in humans, although it still regularly occurs in cattle, sheep, goats, camels, wild buffalo, and antelopes, and also zebras and rhinos, and in other wildlife such as elephants and lions in certain endemic areas of the world.Because of their extremely long lifetime, the spores that are soil-borne remain present for many decades.

Spores have been known to reinfect animals over 70 years after burial sites of anthrax-infected animals were disturbed.2 Anthrax infections killed hundreds and thousands of animals and people each year in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Southern Vietnam, specifically in the concentration camps during WWI, and North America.3 French scientist Louis Pasteur developed the first effective vaccine for anthrax in 1881.4,5,6 Thanks to over a century of animal vaccination programs, sterilization of raw animal waste materials and anthrax eradication programs, anthrax infection is now relatively rare in domestic animals with normally only a few dozen cases reported every year. Anthrax is very rare in cats and dogs with only one documented case in dogs in the USA by 2001.7 Anthrax outbreaks do occur with some regularity in some wild animal populations, although typically not in carnivores and scavengers, even when these animals consume anthrax-infected carcasses.8 The disease is more common in developing countries without widespread veterinary or human public health programs.

1.”Crossrail work stopped after human bones found on site,” London Evening Standard

2.”Hudson, J. A.; Daniel, R. M. and H. W. Morgan (2006). “Acidophilic and thermophilic Bacillus strains from geothermally heated Antarctic soil.” FEMS Microbiology Letters 60(3):279–282.

3.Blanc, H. W. (1890). “Anthrax: the disease of the Egyptian plagues”. New Orleans Med Surg J 18: 1–25.

4.”Anthrax” by Jeanne Guillemin, University of California Press, 2001, ISBN 0-520-22917-7, p. 3

5.Cherkasskiy, B. L. (1999). “A national register of historic and contemporary anthrax foci”. Journal of Applied Microbiology 87 (2): 192–195. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.1999.00868.x.

6.David V. Cohn (1996-02-11). “Life and Times of Louis Pasteur”. School of Dentistry, University of Louisville. http://louisville.edu/library/ekstrom/special/pasteur/cohn.html. Retrieved 2008-08-13.

7.Mikesell, P.; Ivins, B. E.; Ristroph, J. D.; Vodkin, M. H.; Dreier, T. M.; Leppla, S. H. (1983), “Plasmids, Pasteur, and Anthrax” (PDF), ASM News 49: 320–322, http://www.asm.org/ASM/files/CCLIBRARYFILES/FILENAME/0000000221/490783p320.pdf

8.a b “Robert Koch (1843-1910)”. About.com. http://german.about.com/library/blerf_koch.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-13.

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