Known to be lethal since ancient times, anthrax is an airborne and cutaneous infectious disease, caused by the spores of the Bacillus anthracis. This entry examines the development and epidemiology of the disease and discusses anthrax as a biological weapon.

Background on the Disease

The microbe has a long relationship with laboratory science. Discovered by the German microbiologist Robert Koch in 1876, anthrax was the first pathogen observed by microbiologists and the first to be cultured. Transmitted through ingestion or open wound contact with the bacilli’s spores, anthrax spreads rapidly throughout the body, exploiting the host body’s lymphatic system. Mortality is caused by the microbe’s production of two exotoxins—edema toxin and lethal toxin—which cause general fluid retention in the lungs and shock in hosts. Death results ...

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