Pathogenesis Of Anthrax Essay

1581 words - 7 pages

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There are two main factors that are important for an anthrax infection: bacterial proliferation (growth) and invasion of organ systems and the “…cytotoxic effect of anthrax toxin, with eventual organ failure and death” (Karginov). The first factor occurs once the host has been infected. This infection will never be reached if it were not for a very important characteristic of the bacterium: its ability to form spores. Sporulation occurs in the soil and on culture media but “…not in living tissue, unless exposed to air” (Sakarya). These spores are formed by B. anthracis in soil when the environment becomes inhospitable to growth due to a variety of factors including ...view middle of the document...

This leads to an important factor of anthrax infection involving the three toxin proteins: protective antigen (PA), edema factor (EF) and lethal factor (LF). To produce “…active toxins, PA must bind to cellular receptors and then to either EF or LF”(Joellenbeck). Binding of the protective antigen to either of the other two toxin proteins will form “…complexes which penetrate the patient’s cells to cause massive cell swelling and rapid cardiovascular collapse” (Hersack). These complexes will contribute to causing the disease. The edema toxin forms edema, which might “increase host susceptibility to infection with B. anthracis” (Sakarya). The lethal toxin, however, “…when injected intravenously causes death”(Sakarya). Although these formed toxins cause disease in the host, when administered alone, they have no biological effect in experimental animals (protective antigen dependent). The capsule that is produced also plays an important role in surrounding the bacillus as it circulates through the blood. This capsule enables “…the patient’s immune cells from consuming the anthrax bacilli” (Hersack). Lack of either the toxins or the capsule will lead to weakened or attenuated strains of B. anthracis that are unable to cause disease in humans but can be used to produce anthrax vaccines. Without inhibition of the lethal toxins and the growth of bacterium in the host, the infection is able to progress steadily and uninterrupted.

Transmission of anthrax begins in the soil, which “...serves as the primary reservoir for the bacteria” (Chin). Grazing animals, both wild and livestock, graze on the soil and become infected through extended contact between the soil and their snouts. Breaks in mucous membranes in the snouts of the animals allow the spores from the soil to enter, reanimate into the vegetative growth state, multiply, and cause the infection. They can also enter herbivores through consumption of spore-containing soil or feed. When these infected animals die, they bleed which returns the blood back into the soil where spores are again formed. Some animals are naturally resistant to anthrax such as birds, amphibians, and reptiles but they may act as carriers. Biting insects such as flies may serve the same function as well. Anthrax only infects humans through the use of these infected animals. Fortunately, this is the only method of transmission for anthrax infection in humans and does not occur when people are in close contact with one another (non-contagious).

Anthrax presents itself as three “…clinically distinct syndromes in humans: cutaneous (skin), inhalational, and gastrointestinal” (Darling). Their differences lie in their transmission of the disease. The most common of the three, “…accounting for more than 95% of anthrax cases”, is cutaneous or skin anthrax (Friedlander). Human infection of this form requires either contact with the tissue of animals dying of the disease or by being bit by flies that had earlier fed on the diseased...

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