The Anthrax, also called anthrax, became infamous when in 2001, just one after week of the attacks of September 11, was used as a biological weapon by the American microbiologist Bruce Edward Ivins in a series of attacks that ended the life of five people.
It should be noted that the term anthrax is used more rarely to also refer to another disease, furunculosis.
What is anthrax? What are your causes?
Anthrax or anthrax is the disease caused by infection with the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It usually affects livestock, but sometimes it can occur in people, and when this happens it is very serious and can even be fatal.
The bacterium in question is present in the soil naturally , and in fact it is not uncommon to find it in some products of animal origin such as wool or feed. In addition, it forms spores, which can survive for decades in a latent form and take vegetative form in favorable media such as animal or human tissues.
Normally, infection in people occurs through contact with infected animals or through blood-sucking insects (that feed on blood) that act as a vector. More rarely, infection can occur by inhalation of spores , by consumption of contaminated meat or very exceptionally (it has only been documented in very few cases) by injection with contaminated needles, usually during intravenous drug use.
What are your symptoms?
The specific form that anthrax takes in a person depends entirely on the form of contagion : skin, respiratory, digestive and by injection. In all cases, the symptoms appear after an incubation period that can last up to 20 days, but usually moves between 3 and 7 days.
In the most common cutaneous form , a black papule appears at the site of infection, surrounded by vesicles with liquid content. This injury is not painful, although it may be surrounded by edema. Normally, this picture subsides on its own within a few days; but, if it spreads to other areas, it is fatal in 20% of cases.
When the infection is intestinal (digestive), the rarest, the typical picture of gastroenteritis appears, with fever, vomiting and diarrhea. In half of the cases, it progresses to septic shock, coma, and death.
If the bacteria have entered the body by injection , the symptoms consist of redness of the area, considerable swelling, shock, multisystem failure, meningitis and, in 20% of cases, death.
In the respiratory form , which is the one used as a biological weapon by Ivins (and has been widely studied in the military field), symptoms occur at high speed: fever, non-productive cough, severe respiratory distress, stridor (wheezing and noises when inhaling ), cyanosis (bluish color in extremities and mucosa) and septicemia (systemic inflammatory response) that leads to death in the vast majority of cases.
How is it treated?
Anthrax, being a bacterial infection, is treated by administering antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, and levofloxacin.
In addition, since the 2001 attacks, antitoxin therapies have been developed for inhalational anthrax , which are administered in conjunction with antibiotics and significantly improve the patient’s prognosis.
In the cases of injection anthrax, it has been successfully treated by surgically removing the affected tissue.
In any case, it is vital that treatment be started quickly , as the infection progresses rapidly and at some point the bacteria have produced more toxins than the drugs are capable of eliminating.