Tears may hold key to fighting anthrax

Tears may hold the potential to fight anthrax, a researcher at the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Ark., has announced.

Saeed Khan presented results of a study this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society that showed that lysozymes, an enzyme in human tears, can potentially resist anthrax, BoddyOdd.MSNBC.com reports.

Lysozymes are also found in other biological fluids, including egg whites. When Khan infected egg whites with an anthrax stand-in, the spores were killed by the egg white's lysozymes, which attacked the bacteria's cell walls.

Additionally, Khan found that the anthrax stand-in's spores were inactivated when lysozyme was added to ground beef and milk, BoddyOdd.MSNBC.com reports.

Alexander M. Cole, an associate professor at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Central Florida, told BoddyOdd.MSNBC.com that more than just tears can fight anthrax.

"Pretty much every wet area of your body," has antimicrobial powers, Cole told BoddyOdd.MSNBC.com.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies anthrax as a Category A agent, meaning it has a high potential to be weaponized and used in a bioterror attack.

Anthrax is caused by ingesting or inhaling or touching the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, or its spores. Approximately 80 percent of those who contract anthrax cutaneously survive. Between one-quarter to one-half of those infected with gastrointestinal anthrax and about half of those who have inhaled anthrax are expected to die.