Anthrax: Overview, Research, Pathophysiology, Treatment and More

INR EVENTS

International Scientific Research Conference, 2023.

Abstract Submission for the International Scientific Research Conference, 2023.

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Introduction

On the 12th of June 2023, The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development released a notice warning the general public in Nigeria on the outbreak of Anthrax in some neighbouring countries within the West African Sub-Region, specifically, Northern Ghana bordering Burkina Faso and Togo.

Anthrax is a severe infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Bacillus anthracis. 

It is commonly found in the soil and affects domestic and wild animals.

Humans can become sick with Anthrax when they come into contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products (milk, hair, hides and waste). 

Anthrax is common in agricultural regions of sub-Saharan Africa, central and southwestern Asia, southern and eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. 

Causes

Anthrax infection is caused by the following:

– Inhalation of anthrax spores.

– Eating food or drinking water contaminated with anthrax spores.

– Getting spores in a cut or scrape on the skin.

– Exposure to infected animals or animal products.

Types

–      Cutaneous Anthrax: Occurs when Anthrax gets into the skin through cuts or scrapes. It is the most common and considered to be the least dangerous.

Cutaneous Anthrax is usually found on the head, neck, forearm, and hands. 

Infection develops within 1-7 days of exposure, and with proper treatment, almost all patients with cutaneous Anthrax survive.

–      Gastrointestinal Anthrax: Occurs when a person eats raw or undercooked meat from an animal infected with Anthrax. 

Once ingested, anthrax spores can affect the throat, oesophagus, stomach and intestines.

Infection usually develops within 1-7 days after exposure, but about 60% of patients survive with proper treatment.

–      Inhalation Anthrax: This occurs when a person breathes in anthrax spores. 

It first starts in the lymph nodes in the chest before spreading throughout the body, leading to severe breathing problems and shock. 

Inhalation anthrax is considered to be the most deadly form of Anthrax

Infection develops after one week of exposure but can take up to 2 months

With aggressive treatment, about 55% of patients survive.

–      Injection Anthrax: This was discovered among heroin-injecting drug users in Europe.

Injection anthrax can spread faster throughout the body and be harder to recognize and treat. 

Also, symptoms may be similar to cutaneous Anthrax.

Signs And Symptoms

Below are some signs and symptoms of anthrax infection, though symptoms depend on the type of infection and can take one day to more than two months to appear.

– Fever and chills.

– Nausea and vomiting.

– Headache.

– A group of small blisters or bumps that may itch/swell around the sore(cutaneous Anthrax).

– Diarrhea.

– Cough.

– Body ache.

– Extreme tiredness.

– Sore throat.

– Painful swallowing.

Pathophysiology

Once the anthrax spores get into the body of an infected person, the spores get activated and become anthrax bacteria. 

Then the bacteria multiplies spreads out in the body, produces toxins and then leads to severe illness. 

Diagnosis

Laboratory investigations can be done to test for bacillus anthrax in samples such as blood, spinal fluid, wound swab, and respiratory secretions.

A chest x-ray can also be done to check for pleural effusion (in inhalation anthrax).

TREATMENT

This is usually with:

-Antibiotics.

-Antitoxins.

Patients with severe anthrax infection would require hospitalization and aggressive treatment, including rehydration and mechanical ventilation to help with breathing.

Prevention

– According to the federal Ministry of Agriculture and rural development, consumption of hides (pomo), smoked meat, and bush meat should be avoided (for now) as they pose a serious risk until the situation is controlled.

– Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.

– Vaccination: There is a vaccine (Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed) that can prevent Anthrax, but it is only recommended by the Food and Drug Administration for occupational routine use in certain groups of at-risk adults (e.g., some members of the military and laboratory workers) and post-event emergency use.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Anthrax is not contagious, which means it cannot be transferred from person to person. 

It is only in rare cases that person-person transmission has been reported with cutaneous Anthrax, where discharges from lesions might be infectious.

Also, note that all types of Anthrax can spread throughout the body and lead to death if not treated with antibiotics.

More importantly, it is advised that the prevention measures are adhered to prevent getting infected with Anthrax.

Research & News

More Resources

Facts About Anthrax

  • Anthrax is also called malignant pustule, splenic fever or woolsorters’ disease.
  • The nature of Anthrax makes it a perfect fit for biological weapons
  • Anthrax is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a Category A agent, which means it poses the highest level of threat to public health. It has the potential to spread over a large area and requires careful planning and public awareness to protect people’s health.

References

Aniagolu, K. (2023, June 12). FG Alerts Nigerians On Outbreak Of ‘Anthrax’ Disease Capable Of Killing Humans, Animals. The Whistler Newspaper. https://thewhistler.ng/fg-alerts-nigerians-on-outbreak-of-anthrax-disease-capable-of-killing-humans-animals/

Anthrax | CDC. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/anthrax/


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