A treatment for anthrax?

Gram-positive Bacillus anthracis bacteria (pur...

B. anthracis in cerebrospinal fluid: Image via Wikipedia

Nathan P. (11 AM Micro) found an article which discusses the treatment for severe cases of anthrax. Since many cases which don’t receive immediate antibiotic treatment end up being fatal, this is an important finding which moves the field forward.  Here’s Nathan’s summary:

The anthrax bacteria infection, as we learned in class is caused by Bacillus anthracis.  Of the three forms in which the bacteria enter and affect the body inhalation anthrax has some of the quickest and worst symptoms.  Although rare in humans, the bioterrorism attacks in 2001 greatly increased the amount of cases found.  Bacillus species are gram positive rods shaped bacteria typically found in chains or pairs that form endospores.

In an article published by the American Society for Microbiology, recent studies of antimicrobial treatments were discussed.  The tests were completed in Israel, and the conclusions reached were that a combination of drugs and a vaccination are able to treat an anthrax infection.  Since 2001, when the bioterrorism attacks occurred, various medical and science institutions have been working to overcome the anthrax bacteria.  The article blames the death of the victims of 2001 on the late diagnosis and treatment.  The study by the Israel Institute of Biological Research is the first study in which severe cases of respiratory anthrax have been able to be treated.  Although the tests have only been completed in animals, and not humans, scientists believe that it should be able to work in the human body.

The study had two parts, to study the prevention of and the treatment for respiratory anthrax infections.  It was found that with the correct combination of antimicrobial drugs, treatment could be successful even two days after the infection started.  The initial treatments given to animals, 24 hours after infection often only kept the bacteria at bay (bacteriastatic), however after the treatment was stopped the animals died from the infection.  Other tests were completed on animals over 24 hours after the initial infection.  Many of the animals had already shown signs of bacteremia and toxemia.  Using doxycycline was somewhat effective against less severe infections, while combining it with the use of an antigen vaccination greatly increased the effectiveness.  Another treatment method seemed to have the greatest effect against the bacteria.  This method included ciprofloxacin and a monoclonal anti-protective antigen antibody.

The end result of the study was that anthrax, in animals can be cured and treated effectively given the appropriate mix of antibiotics.  The other important conclusion from the study was that not only was it treatable in the very early stages, but also when systemic signs/symptoms were recorded as well.  Overall the study has increased our knowledge and understanding of the effectiveness of multi-drug therapies, and has offered a possible solution to end the anthrax bacterial infection for the human population.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on April 26, 2011, in Guest Post, Microbes in the News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. im glad this study helped them find a cure for anthrax for animals the only bad thing is they havent really figured out on humans the results. hopefully with more research and test they will find a cure.

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