Bacillus anthracis is a word derived from the Greek word for coal, Bacillus anthrakis. It is a Gram-positive, aerobic, spore-bearing organism known to affects herbivores and mammals, including humans. In the genus bacillus, there are many groups that can be distinguished but it is convenient to categories bacillus anthracis in B cereus group, which comprises of Bacillus cereus, Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus mycoides by phenotype. It can be distinguished from the other group as it is the only one that is non-motile, non-haemolytic on blood agar, grows at 37 degrees Celsius and forms white colonies with bee’s eye appearance. (Spencer & Roberts 2003)
Bacteria have their mode of survival, it happens when nutrients are exhausted. Bacillus anthracic produces spores that help it survive in soil for decades until they get exposed to favorable conditions. That’s when the spores germinate in a tissue or blood of an animal or human host. Depending on the mode of infection, there are three types of anthrax namely cutaneous which produces skin lesion. When untreated for long can cause problems such as: blood poisoning, intestinal anthrax caused by consumption of contaminated meat, characterized by food poisoning symptoms leading to fever and blood poisoning. It also causes respiratory anthrax which happens when the spores are inhaled by the host ending up in the lungs. Symptoms start as a simple flu but rapidly worsen, and the patient goes into shock in less than six days. (Spencer 2003)
Anthrax is considered as a bioweapon as it can be prepared to hang in the air as an aerosol in sufficient quantities that can be inhaled and cause disease. Based on a scientific calculation by World Health Organization a release of 50 kg of dried anthrax powder into the air for two hours on 500 000 inhabitants, 95 000 deaths would occur with 125 000 others incapacitated. Exposure to anthrax spores does not necessarily means that one will be affected, many of the spores are dormant and may not cause any harm but only when sufficient spores germinate and release harmful bacteria in a large amount may lead to infection. Small amounts of the bacteria can are killed by the body’s immune system. (Theresa 2002)
Antibiotics are mainly used for treating bacterial infections. With time, antibiotics have become difficult to treat some illness caused by bacteria as they are becoming drug resistant and also mutating. Penicillin was widely used but naturally occurring strains of bacteria are also becoming resistant. Use of amoxicillin and penicillin is no longer recommended. Ciprofloxacillin, which is a much stronger antibiotic, is recommended, and treatment administered for more days. Vaccination is another alternative to eradicate the disease whereby in animals repeated vaccinations are required for long term protection because a single dose only provides immunity for a few months.
Because of the magnitude of infections caused by bacteria, more research in natural immune mechanisms of the host is required so as to understand and improve future resistance to bacterial infections and identify virulence factors. Even with the availability of vaccines and antibiotics no bacterial disease from human or animal populations has been eliminated, as drug resistance remains a serious problem in the medical word. (Johhny, 1996)