Volunteer for NIAID-funded clinical studies related to anthrax on ClinicalTrials.gov.
Bacillus anthracis is a bacterium that lives in soil and has developed a survival tactic that allows it to endure for decades under the harshest conditions. An anthrax bacterial cell can transform itself into a spore, a very hardy resting phase which can withstand extreme heat, cold, and drought, without nutrients or air. When environmental conditions are favorable, the spores will germinate into thriving colonies of bacteria. For example, a grazing animal may ingest spores that begin to grow, spread, and eventually kill the animal. The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals in the future.
While its spore form allows the bacteria to survive in any environment, the ability to produce toxins is what makes the bacteria such a potent killer. Together, the hardiness and toxicity of B. anthracis make it a formidable bioterror agent. Its toxin is made of three proteins: protective antigen, edema factor, and lethal factor.
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Last Updated August 04, 2010
Last Reviewed August 04, 2010