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Antibiotics for Anthrax


Antibiotics for Anthrax Treatment - Antibiotics to Treat Anthrax - Antibiotics Used to Treat Anthrax - Anthrax in Animals

Anthrax .PDF

ANTHRAX (Bacillus anthracis)

Anthrax in Humans and Animals

Anthrax - What You Need To Know

Fact Sheet Anthrax


After the terrorist attack on 11 September, many people fear a new danger — biological warfare in the form of anthrax. Perhaps understandably, many Americans are taking antibiotics such as Cipro (ciprofloxacin) as a preventative measure. Data from the pharmaceutical tracking company NDCHealth of Atlanta, Georgia, show that almost 63,100 more Cipro prescriptions have been issued in the third week of October alone than for the entire previous year. However, this has caused some concern in the medical profession that antibiotic overuse could result in antibiotic resistance in many types of bacteria. Not surprisingly, the humanist-dominated secular media has used phrases such as ‘Bacteria evolve drug resistance very quickly’.

Anthrax - Understanding Bacillus Anthracis

Anthrax is a potentially fatal disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It is well known for its role in the 2001 bioterrorist attacks, in which the lethal bacteria were spread deliberately through the U.S. mail. Twenty-two people became ill, and five died.

Bacillus anthracis is the bacterium that causes anthrax. It lives in soil. Bacillus anthracis is different than many other bacteria because it forms spores. In this form, the Bacillus anthracis can lie dormant, but may come to life under the right conditions. Once the Bacillus anthracis bacteria come to life, they can have deadly effects. Bacillus anthracis is an aerobic bacterium, meaning it requires oxygen to survive and grow.

Bacillus anthracis is the bacterium that causes anthrax. This organism is different from many other bacteria because it forms spores. In this form, it can lie dormant (asleep), but may come to life with the right conditions. Once the bacteria come to life, they can have deadly effects.

Bacillus anthracis is an aerobic (oxygen-requiring) bacterium that lives in soil and has developed a survival tactic that allows it to endure for decades under the harshest conditions. As mentioned, this form is called a spore. You can think of a spore as a protective cocoon with the active bacterium inside.

When Bacillus anthracis is in its spore phase, it can withstand extreme heat, cold, and drought and continue to survive without nutrients or air. When environmental conditions are favorable, the spores will germinate into thriving colonies of bacteria. For example, a grazing animal may ingest spores that begin to grow, spread, and eventually kill the animal. The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals in the future.

Most often, anthrax bacteria enter your body through a wound in your skin. You can also become infected by eating contaminated meat or inhaling the spores. Signs and symptoms, which depend on the way you're infected, can range from skin sores to nausea and vomiting or shock.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics can cure most anthrax infections contracted through the skin or contaminated meat. Inhaled anthrax is more difficult to treat and can be fatal.

Anthrax most commonly occurs in wild and domestic animals (sheep, cattle, goats, camels, antelopes, and other plant-eating animals), but it can also occur in humans. A person may develop the condition if he or she is exposed to infected animals, tissue from infected animals, or anthrax spores used as a bioterrorist weapon.

Symptoms of Anthrax

There are three types of anthrax, each with different signs and symptoms. In most cases, symptoms develop within seven days of exposure to the bacteria.

Gastrointestinal Anthrax

Gastrointestinal anthrax is one of the three main types of anthrax, a serious bacterial disease.

Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs naturally in warm and tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. There have been no confirmed cases in the United States, although a Minnesota farm family may have experienced symptoms in 2000 after eating meat from a steer that had anthrax.

The other major types of anthrax are:

  • Cutaneous (skin) anthrax
  • Inhalation anthrax.
  • People can acquire gastrointestinal anthrax from eating meat contaminated with Bacillus anthracis bacteria or their spores.

    Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Anthrax

  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting blood.
  • Cutaneous Anthrax

    Anthrax is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Cutaneous anthrax is the most common of the three main types. About 95 percent of cases are the result of cutaneous anthrax.

    Cutaneous anthrax infections occur when the bacterium Bacillus anthracis enters a cut or abrasion on the skin. This may happen when handling contaminated wool, hides, leather, or hair products (especially goat hair) of infected animals.

    People who work with certain animals or animal carcasses are at risk of getting cutaneous anthrax. This disease is rare in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are only one to two reported cases per year in the United States.

    Symptoms of Cutaneous Anthrax
    With cutaneous anthrax, the skin infection that results begins as a raised, itchy bump that resembles an insect bite but within one to two days develops into a blister. This blister then turns into a painless ulcer with a characteristic black necrotic (dying) area in the center (see Anthrax Pictures). Lymph glands in the adjacent area may swell.

    Cutaneous anthrax responds well to antibiotics, but may spread throughout the body if untreated. About 20 percent of untreated cases will result in death. Deaths from this type of anthrax are rare with appropriate treatment.

    Treatments of Anthrax

    The standard treatment for anthrax is a 60-day course of an antibiotic, such as Ciprofloxacin(Cipro) or Doxycycline. Which single antibiotic or combination of antibiotics will be most effective for you depends on the type of anthrax you have, your age, overall health and other factors. Treatment is most effective when started as soon as possible.

    Although some cases of anthrax respond to antibiotics, advanced inhalation anthrax may not. By the later stages of the disease, the bacteria have often produced more toxins than drugs can eliminate.

    Prevention - Anthrax Vaccine
    An anthrax vaccine is available for protection against the anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis). The vaccine is currently only recommended for high-risk populations. The anthrax vaccine does not contain the whole bacterium; rather, it is made mostly of the anthrax protective antigen protein.

    Health experts currently do not recommend the vaccine for general use by the public because anthrax illness is rare, and the vaccine has potential adverse side effects. Researchers have not determined the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

      The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended the anthrax vaccine for the following groups:

    • People who work directly with anthrax in the laboratory.

    • People who handle potentially infected animal products in a high-incidence area, such as slaughterhouse workers or livestock handlers.

    • Veterinarians who travel to work in countries where anthrax occurs more frequently.

    • People who work with imported animal hides or furs in areas where standards are insufficient to prevent exposure to anthrax spores.

    • Military personnel deployed to areas with a high risk for exposure to anthrax.


    The anthrax vaccine schedule consists of three subcutaneous (under the skin) injections, given two weeks apart, followed by three additional subcutaneous injections given at 6, 12, and 18 months. Annual booster injections of the anthrax vaccine are recommended thereafter.

    Possible Side Effects of the Anthrax Vaccine
    Getting anthrax is much riskier than getting the anthrax vaccine; however, just like with any medicine, there are potential risks associated with the vaccine. Most of the possible problems that can occur are minor, meaning that they go away without treatment or are very easily treated by a healthcare provider. The risk of the anthrax vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

    In 30 percent of people who receive the anthrax vaccine, a mild skin reaction where the shot was given occurs. This skin reaction consists of slight tenderness and redness at the injection site.

    Severe local reactions are infrequent and consist of extensive swelling of the forearm, in addition to the local reaction.

    Serious reactions that affect the entire body occur in less than 0.2 percent of people who receive the anthrax vaccine.

    Anthrax in Animals

    The deadly disease affects domestic animals, wild ruminants. Recent outbreaks of anthrax in the US have focused new attention on one of civilization's oldest and deadliest diseases. Anthrax remains a far greater threat to livestock than to people - while infected animals left untreated die within a few days, the most common form of anthrax in humans is a generally non-fatal skin infection that strikes workers handling infected animals or animal products. (That anthrax is largely an "occupational hazard" for humans is reflected in the common name given to its deadly pulmonary form: "woolsorter's disease", contracted through the inhalation of spores in fleece.) AG21 asked specialists in AG's Animal Health Service for a basic guide to anthrax in animals.

    The Anthrax affects domestic animals - such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, pigs and dogs - as well as wild ruminants such as antelopes, gazelles and impalas. Even elephants and hippopotami are reported to have died from the disease in outbreaks in some parts of Africa. Wild carnivores such as lions, hyenas and jackals, are also susceptible. Birds, however, seem to be resistant to anthrax.

    How is anthrax diagnosed in animals?
    In areas prone to this disease, anthrax should be suspected in any animals that die suddenly. A veterinarian should rule out anthrax as the cause of death before the carcass is handled by others. Animals suspected of having died from anthrax are not opened for post mortem examination. The reason for this is that the tissue form of anthrax bacterium, on coming into contact with the air, changes to the environmentally resistant spores, which then serve as the means for re-infection of susceptible hosts. The diagnosis of anthrax is made by examining blood smears on a microscope slide (using samples taken from superficial blood vessels or natural openings of dead animals). The anthrax bacterium in a dead animal, or in hides, skin, wool and soil, etc. can be detected by growing the micro-organism in artificial media. More sophisticated laboratory tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), are also available for a rapid diagnosis of anthrax. Anthrax must be differentiated from other conditions that cause sudden death in animals, such as clostridial infections, plant or chemical poisoning, fevers caused by ticks, and other disease conditions.

    How does anthrax spread in animals?
    Outbreaks of anthrax tend to occur in association with particular climatic and weather events, such as heavy rainfall, flooding and drought. In anthrax-prone areas, the close grazing of animals on fresh shoots of grass after rainfall often leads to outbreaks of the disease due to the ingestion of organisms picked from contaminated soils. During severe outbreaks, biting flies may transmit the disease from one animal to another but this is a very minor mode of transmission. The principal mode of transmission is ingestion of infective micro-organisms. Non-biting blowflies may contaminate vegetation by depositing vomit droplets after feeding on a carcass infected with B. anthracis. Animals feeding on such vegetation then become infected. Wild carnivores become infected through the consumption of infected animals that have died from anthrax. Outbreaks of anthrax have been reported in some animals (mainly pigs) after ingestion of feeds containing meat and bone meal based concentrates originating from carcasses contaminated with anthrax bacterial spores.

    How does anthrax manifest itself?
    The incubation period of anthrax is three to seven days, with a range of one to 14 days. A common feature of anthrax is that animals in apparently good condition die suddenly without showing overt signs of ill health. Acute cases in cattle, sheep and wild herbivores are characterized by fever, depression, difficulty in breathing and convulsions. Animals may die within two or three days if not treated. It is common to see bloody discharges from natural openings. In few instances, anthrax can manifest itself as a mild disease characterized by general malaise. In pigs, the disease is characterised by swelling of the throat, which may cause difficulties in breathing. In dogs, cats and wild carnivores, the disease resembles that seen in pigs.

    Measures for control anthrax in animals
    Because anthrax is often fatal in domestic animals, a preventive strategy should be adopted involving annual vaccination of susceptible animals (usually cattle, sheep and goats) in areas prone to the disease. This is usually done two to four weeks before the onset of known period of outbreaks. In situations where animals show clinical signs of the disease, antibiotic treatment is recommended. Other measures to be adopted in addition to immunization and treatment are enforcement of quarantine regulations, prompt disposal of dead animals, bedding and contaminated materials, control of scavengers, and observation of general hygiene by people who have come in contact with diseased or dead animals.

    Vaccine
    The non-encapsulated Sterne strain vaccine is used. This live attenuated vaccine is incapable of causing clinical disease, but produces immunity against anthrax. A single vaccination produces immunity lasting for an average of nine months. Annual vaccination of susceptible animals is sufficient to control outbreaks of anthrax in defined localities. The Sterne vaccine strain is not hazardous to humans. Consequently, no specific protective measures are prescribed for veterinarians, veterinary technicians and farmers who handle the vaccine.

    Anthrax is an old disease of both animals and humans. It is not contagious - that is, it is not easily transmitted from person to person. However, one reason it causes concern is that the spore form of the bacterium can persist in the environment for a long period of time if conditions are favourable. Humans can develop localized skin lesions or cutaneous anthrax through the contact of broken skin with infected blood or tissues, or may acquire the highly fatal form from inhalation of spores. Humans can also acquire the intestinal form of anthrax by consuming poorly cooked contaminated meat.

    Sources used - anthrax.emedtv.com, www.mayoclinic.com, www.fao.org

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