Bacillus anthracis and Anthrax (page 5)
(This chapter has 5 pages)
© Kenneth Todar, PhD
Anthrax and Biological Warfare
The inhalation of anthrax spores can lead to infection and disease.
The possibility of creating aerosols containing anthrax spores has made
anthracis a chosen weapon of bioterrorism. Several powers may have
the ability to load spores of
B. anthracis into weapons. Domestic
terrorists may develop means to distribute spores via mass attacks or
attacks at a local level.
As an agent of biological warfare it is expected that a cloud of
spores would be released at a strategic location to be inhaled by the
under attack. Spores of B. anthracis can be produced and stored
in a dry form and remain viable for decades in storage or after
There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission of anthrax.
of affected individuals is not recommended. Anthrax spores may survive
in the soil, water and on surfaces for many years. Spores can only be
by steam sterilization or burning. Chemical disinfection of buildings
problematic. The U.S. Navy Manual on Operational Medicine and Fleet
entitled Biological Warfare Defense Information Sheet states
of contaminated articles may be accomplished using a 0.05% hypochlorite
solution (1 tbs. bleach per gallon of water). Spore destruction
Anthrax spores are killed by boiling (100oC or 212oF)
for 30 minutes
actual reported time is considerably less). If boiling as a means of
the spores must be in liquid suspension to ensure killing, and in a
container to avoid aerosolization or vaporization of droplet nuclei
An infection of local animal populations such as sheep and cattle
follow a biological attack with spores. Infected animals could then
the disease to humans through the cutaneous, intestinal or inhalation
by spores from a contaminated animal, carcass or hide.
At the time of the war with Iraq a segment of the U.S. military population was vaccinated
anthrax. An immune military population is required to resist an attack with anthrax spores.
The anthrax vaccine consists of a series of six doses with yearly
boosters. The first vaccine of the series must be given at least four
before exposure to the disease. This vaccine protects against anthrax
is acquired through the skin and it is believed that it would also be
against inhaled spores in a biowarfare situation. Of course, an
immune military and civil population would be needed to respond to a domestic bioterrorist attack
anthrax spores. Presumably passive immunity (see the passive vaccine on the previous page) could be employed to afford immediate protection during the development of active immunity by vaccination.
END OF CHAPTER
Return to Page 1