Twenty years ago this month, letters containing Bacillus anthracis spores were mailed to various politicians and news media offices in the US, resulting in illness, death, and a widespread fear that transformed anthrax from an agricultural disease or occupational hazard into a potential weapon of bioterrorism. In this episode, we explore the many dimensions of anthrax, from the different ways B. anthracis can cause disease to the incredibly long and varied history of the pathogen, a history of which bioterrorism is only a very recent part. Adding to anthrax’s multifaceted nature is the fact that B. anthracis is an environmental pathogen, one that can greatly impact livestock and wild animals, which requires collaboration across fields to effectively identify and control anthrax outbreaks. To help us explore this pathogen from a One Health perspective, we were so thrilled to chat with Dr. Johanna Salzer, Veterinary Medical Officer in the Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who filled us in on the veterinary side of anthrax, and Morgan Walker, spatial epidemiologist at the University of Florida, who talked us through the environmental factors that affect B. anthracis distribution and emergence. Tune in for a much more than surface-level look at this spore-forming pathogen.
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