Discovery made about the workings of antibody against anthrax

Researchers with the University of Auckland in New Zealand recently announced that they have made a discovery about the workings of an antibody against the anthrax toxin.

Associate professor Alok Mitra, lead researcher for the study, told that the team’s findings may have implications for vaccine development for anthrax and other similar infectious diseases.

Anthrax is rare in developed countries but there are periodic outbreaks in poorer nations. Concerns about its use in bioterrorism have renewed global attempts to develop a vaccine. Anthrax toxin is responsible for much of the harm caused by the disease.

Mitra told that the anthrax toxin is made up of multiple proteins and only becomes active and starts doing damage when those proteins cluster together in a very specific way.

“We have found that the neutralizing antibody destroys the configuration of the toxin cluster, adding more proteins to the mix and altering their arrangement so that they can no longer act as they normally would,” Mitra told “It has been known for some time that this antibody is very effective at neutralizing anthrax toxin in the laboratory, but it is not a simple case of turning the antibody into an immunization device for humans. We need to know how the antibody works in order to develop an effective vaccine and our research is an important step in this direction.”

Mitra said the work also has broader implications because it shows that a simple new method can be used to identify other antibodies with neutralizing potential.

“Our research was the first to show that an antibody can structurally alter its target in this way, but it is unlikely to be the only example in nature and may in fact prove to be an important biological process,” Mitra told “We have shown that by mixing antibodies and their targets in the laboratory and looking under a high-powered microscope for the kinds of abnormal clusters we have seen, scientists can quickly and easily search for neutralizing antibodies for many diseases.”

The next phase of research, Mitra said, will include a closer look at how the abnormal complexes are formed and exactly where the antibody binds to the toxin.