FDA: Individual bacteria could play key role in spreading anthrax through body

A recent study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests that individual bacteria play a major role in spreading anthrax through the body.

The study found that when the most dangerous type of anthrax infection - inhalational anthrax - occurs in the human body, the immune system creates a temporary bottleneck to trap the bacteria. When even a single anthrax bacteria escapes the bottleneck, the bacteria can spread throughout the body.

Inhalational anthrax occurs when spores are inhaled through the nose into the air sacs of the lungs. Immune system cells then engulf the spores and take them to lymph nodes. Once in the lymph nodes, the spores can germinate and spread throughout the body, causing death if not treated successfully.

The scientists tested three strains of Bacillus anthracis bacteria in mice and found that one of the three strains was always dominant. They determined that the dominant strain in the neck lymph nodes of the mice was the result of the first spore to break through the immune system bottleneck replicating throughout the body.

The results of the study demonstrate the importance of prevention and the detection of an initial infection caused by inhalational anthrax. The study also shows the need for early treatment to block the spread of the bacteria to the bloodstream and the body. Early treatment could provide support to early responses of the immune system.