New anthrax discovery could aid in treating infection

 A new study published in Microbiology suggests that anthrax-causing bacteria can be designed to reveal themselves, making it easier for immune systems to fight the bacteria. 

The Times of India reports that the discovery could lead to new ways to treat anthrax infection should it be used in a biological warfare attack. The specific bacteria - bacillus anthracis, also referred to as B. anthracis - is considered especially lethal because it cloaks itself with a protective capsule that conceals its identity to immune systems, the Times reports. 

The publication reports that the study was conducted by scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The Times states that the scientists discovered a way to nearly completely unmask the bacterium.

By doing so, Dr. Arthur Friedlander told the Times, "we are effectively turning the bacterium's own weapon on itself.

The scientist reported in the study that they coaxed B. anthracis to over-produce capsule depolymerase, which led to the protective coating's near-complete disappearance. The body's immune system is left to take care of the rest.

"Many pathogenic bacteria, including B. anthracis, produce a capsule surrounding them that prevents the infected host from killing them, improving their chances of causing disease," Friedlander told the Times. "Understanding the mechanisms of virulence used by the anthrax bacterium is vital to developing medical countermeasures against it in the event of a biological attack."