Researchers find anthrax reduces key blood vessel protein

Researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released findings on Friday that show the anthrax toxin reduces a key protein known for keeping the lining of blood vessels intact.

Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium called Bacillus anthracis. Most versions of the disease are lethal, and are known to affect both humans and animals. The anthrax spores are capable of being manufactured and then used as a biological weapon.

Depending on how it is ingested, anthrax has different symptoms. If the spores are breathed in, which the scientists in this study focused on, cold or flu-like symptoms are common, which grow more and more severe and have the potential to be fatal.

A protein, called anthrax lethal toxin or LT, contributes to the symptoms of anthrax when the spores are inhaled. LT reduces the production of claudin-5, which is a molecule that keeps cells making tightly connected blood vessels. Without this connection, there is leakage of fluid from the blood.

The researchers also found that this weakening of the blood vessels did not cause cell death. The data the researchers found could be used in the future to help make vaccines, drugs and diagnostics for anthrax and even other CBRN threats.