From Disease to Weapon: The story of Anthrax

I initially meant to write an article on anthrax over a week ago; good thing I waited. Anthrax has recently been in the news again; not once but twice. The first situation was when a Maryland lab discovered that it had been mistakenly sent live anthrax samples through commercial mail from an Army biodefense facility in Utah. The samples were sent to several labs across the United States  working to develop a new diagnostic test for anthrax (normally only inactivated anthrax is used for research). Samples were also sent to South Korea, and now since further investigation it has been revealed that  live samples of anthrax may have also been sent to the United Kingdom and Australia several years ago. The second and most recent incident comes just this week (June 9th) when a 50-year-old man robbed a Chase bank while claiming to have anthrax. He detained by police who recovered a jar in his truck containing a substance that he says is a protein powder and not anthrax. Samples from the jar have been sent for testing.

What is Anthrax

Bacillus Anthracis is a gram-positive (thick peptidoglycan layer), bacilli (rod-shaped), spore-forming bacterium. It is virulent and causes a highly contagious disease. All warm-blooded animals are capable of contracting anthrax, but it is not known to be transmitted person-to-person. B. Anthracis is also a facultative anaerobic bacteria, meaning that it normally uses oxygen for respiration, but can survive in environments where there is no oxygen. Continue reading