Anthrax Infection: Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis of anthrax is essential for the survival of an infected individual. If he or she is positive for anthrax, immediate treatment must be done. Effective vaccines against the disease are already being developed as the threats of bioterrorism create fear to everyone.

Diagnosis of Anthrax

Diagnosis of anthrax starts with the isolation and identification of Bacillus anthracis from a patient’s blood or tissue sample. Serum samples from the patient are also analyzed for the presence of antibodies against B. anthracis and DNA of the bacteria. To get an adequate amount of bacterial DNA to be analyzed, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is utilized to produce millions of copies of B. anthracis DNA. Once the patient is found positive for the presence of antibodies and anthrax DNA, doctors are alerted to do the necessary actions for treating the patient. Developed countries like the U.S. are now developing diagnostic tests that are faster and easier to use, especially ones that can be utilized outside hospital labs. These diagnostic tests are like “medical kits” that anyone could use anywhere (Madigan 2006; Talaro 2008).

Treatment of Anthrax

Correct timing in administering antibiotics to an anthrax patient is proven effective. Delayed treatment results to the patient’s death. Doctors prescribed ciprofloxacin or doxycycline to their patients with anthrax. People suspected to have been exposed to anthrax but who don’t exhibit the symptoms are given preventive doses of antibiotics. This is very important because most of the time B. anthracis endospores don’t immediately germinate inside the host. Research shows that there are anthrax endospores that germinate only after 60 days and cause infection. This is a problem to health officials because there are people who avoid vaccination especially when they don’t feel any kind of anthrax symptoms (Madigan 2006; Talaro 2008).

The Need For An Anthrax Vaccine

Antibiotics on the one hand are used if anthrax infection is already there, but they do not guarantee a 100% survival rate to patients. Vaccines, on the other hand, prepare the immune system of people for future exposure. Due to the fact that anthrax endospores are used as biological weapons, some countries like the U.S. are continuously developing effective vaccines to protect their citizens against potential attack by terrorists.

Today, there is only one vaccine approved for human use. This vaccine contains an inactivated form of the protective antigen toxin and is intended to inhibit the entry of the lethal and edema toxins toward the host’s cells. A person who wants to be vaccinated will receive a total of six injections within 18 months. After receiving the injections, the person is advised to be vaccinated once every year to sustain its immunity against the disease; in other words, he needs annual boosters.

Anthrax vaccine for farm animals is already available. The vaccine is intended to protect the animals in areas where anthrax is prevalent (Madigan 2006; Talaro 2008).

References

  • Madigan, Michael. 2006. Brock Biology of Microorganisms. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Prentice Hall/Pearson Education.
  • Talaro, Kathleen. 2008. Foundations in microbiology: basic principles. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.