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Bacillus anthracis is a Gram-positive, facultatively anaerobic, rod-shaped bacterium of the genus Bacillus. An endospore forming bacterium, B. anthracis is a natural soil-dwelling organism, as well as the causative agent of anthrax.
Each cell is about 1 by 6 μm in size.
B. anthracis was the first bacterium conclusively demonstrated to cause disease, by Robert Koch in 1877. The species name anthracis is from the Greek anthrakis (ἄνθραξ), meaning coal and referring to the most common form of the disease, cutaneous anthrax, in which large black skin lesions are formed.
Under conditions of environmental stress, B. anthracis bacteria naturally produce endospores which rest in the soil and can survive for decades in this state. When ingested by a cattle, sheep, or other herbivores, the bacteria begin to reproduce inside the animal and eventually kill it, then continue to reproduce in its carcass. Once the nutrients are exhausted, new endospores are produced and the cycle repeats.
B. anthracis has at least 89 known strains, ranging from highly virulent strains with biological warfare and bioterrorism applications (Ames and Vollum) to benign strains used for inoculations (Sterne). The strains differ in presence and activity of various genes, determining their virulence and production of antigens and toxins. The form associated with the 2001 anthrax attacks produced both toxin (consisting of three proteins: the protective antigen, the edema factor and the lethal factor) and a capsule (consisting of a polymer of glutamic acid). Infection with anthrax requires the presence of all three of these exotoxins.
The bacterium can be cultivated in ordinary nutrient medium under aerobic or anaerobic conditions.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bacillus_anthracis". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|