Responding to the threat of bioterrorism: a microbial ecology perspective—the case of anthrax Authors R. Atlas Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Louisville, USA Keywords: Bacillus anthracis, endospores, bioterrorism, biological weapons, ciprofloxacin Abstract Anthrax is a disease of herbivores caused by the gram-positive bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can affect cattle, sheep, swine, horses and various species of wildlife. The routes for the spread among wildlife are reviewed. There are three kinds of human anthrax —inhalation, cutaneous, and intestinal anthrax— which differ in their routes of infection and outcomes. In the United States, confirmation of cases is made by the isolation of B. anthracis and by biochemical tests. Vaccination is not recommended for the general public; civilians who should be vaccinated include those who, in their work places, come in contact with products potentially contaminated with B. anthracis spores, and people engaged in research or diagnostic activities. After September 11, 2001, there were bioterrorism anthrax attacks in the United States: anthrax-laced letters sent to multiple locations were the source of infectious B. anthracis. The US Postal Service issued recommendations to prevent the danger of hazardous exposure to the bacterium. B. anthracis spores can spread easily and persist for very long times, which makes decontamination of buildings very difficult. Early detection, rapid diagnosis, and well-coordinated public health response are the key to minimizing casualties. The US Government is seeking new ways to deter bioterrorism, including a tighter control of research on infectious agents, even though pathogens such as B. anthracis are widely spread in nature and easy to grow. It is necessary to define the boundary between defensive and offensive biological weapons research. Deterring bioterrorism should not restrict critical scientific research. Downloads PDF Published 2010-03-10 Issue Vol. 5 No. 4 (2002) Section Review Articles License Submission of a manuscript to International Microbiology implies: that the work described has not been published before, including publication in the World Wide Web (except in the form of an Abstract or as part of a published lecture, review, or thesis); that it is not under consideration for publication elsewhere; that all the coauthors have agreed to its publication. The corresponding author signs for and accepts responsability for releasing this material and will act on behalf of any and all coauthors regarding the editorial review and publication process.If an article is accepted for publication in International Microbiology, the authors (or other copyright holder) must transfer to the journal the right–not exclusive–to reproduce and distribute the article including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions, microform, electronic form (offline, online) or any other reproductions of similar nature. Nevertheless, all article in International Microbiology will be available on the Internet to any reader at no cost. The journal allows users to freely download, copy, print, distribute, search, and link to the full text of any article, provided the authorship and source of the published article is cited. The copyright owner's consent does not include copying for new works, or resale. In these cases, the specific written permission of International Microbiology must first be obtained.Authors are requested to create a link to the published article on the journal's website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: "The original publication is available on LINK at <http://www.im.microbios.org>. Please use the appropiate URL for the article in LINK. Articles disseminated via LINK are indexed, abstracted, and referenced by many abstracting and information services, bibliographic networks, subscription agencies, library networks, and consortia.