Copyright ©The Author(s) 2015. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Clin Cases. Jan 16, 2015; 3(1): 20-33
Published online Jan 16, 2015. doi: 10.12998/wjcc.v3.i1.20
Anthrax: A disease of biowarfare and public health importance
Ajay Kumar Goel
Ajay Kumar Goel, Biotechnology Division, Defence Research and Development Establishment, Gwalior 474002, India
Author contributions: Goel AK solely contributed in this paper.
Supported by Defence Research and Development Establishment, Defence Research and Development Organization, Ministry of Defence, Gwalior.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Ajay Kumar Goel, MSc, PhD, Biotechnology Division, Defence Research and Development Establishment, Ministry of Defence, Jhansi Road, Gwalior 474002, India.
Telephone: +91-751-2233742 Fax: +91-751-2341148
Received: July 28, 2014
Peer-review started: July 30, 2014
First decision: August 28, 2014
Revised: October 23, 2014
Accepted: October 31, 2014
Article in press: December 23, 2014
Published online: January 16, 2015

Bioterrorism has received a lot of attention in the first decade of this century. Biological agents are considered attractive weapons for bioterrorism as these are easy to obtain, comparatively inexpensive to produce and exhibit widespread fear and panic than the actual potential of physical damage. Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis), the etiologic agent of anthrax is a Gram positive, spore forming, non-motile bacterium. This is supposed to be one of the most potent BW agents because its spores are extremely resistant to natural conditions and can survive for several decades in the environment. B. anthracis spores enter the body through skin lesion (cutaneous anthrax), lungs (pulmonary anthrax), or gastrointestinal route (gastrointestinal anthrax) and germinate, giving rise to the vegetative form. Anthrax is a concern of public health also in many countries where agriculture is the main source of income including India. Anthrax has been associated with human history for a very long time and regained its popularity after Sept 2001 incidence in United States. The present review article describes the history, biology, life cycle, pathogenicity, virulence, epidemiology and potential of B. anthracis as biological weapon.

Keywords: Anthrax, Bacillus anthracis, Biological warfare, Epidemiology, Infection, Public health

Core tip: Anthrax is primarily a zoonotic disease which is caused by Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis) and for human it has both, public health as well as biodefence importance. Anthrax has been known since ancient times; however it acquired attention as biological warfare disease after 2001 incidence in United States. B. anthracis is supposed to be the most potent BW agent because of its hardy spores, various modes of infection and high mortality rate. Understanding about the life cycle, virulence, pathogenicity and detection and diagnosis of B. anthracis is important to curb the disease.