Science behind anthrax toxins causing illness and death revealed

Last Updated: Aug 29, 2013, 13:25 PM IST

Washington: Researchers have identified cells in 2 distinct areas of the body that are simultaneously targeted for damage by anthrax toxins, which results in illness and sometimes death.

Findings of researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, both part of the National Institutes of Health, are based on testing in mice.

According to researchers, however, the results may contribute to the development of anthrax treatments for humans.

Anthrax disease is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which produces two deadly toxins: lethal toxin and edema toxin. When B. anthracis infects a human or animal, both toxins seek out and bind to receptors on the surfaces of human and animal cells.

Using two types of laboratory mice-those missing the anthrax toxin receptor on a single type of cell or those having the receptor present on a single type of cell-the scientists compared disease progression among the rodents.

They concluded that anthrax-induced death is caused primarily by lethal toxin targeting heart cells and muscle cells surrounding blood vessels, and edema toxin targeting liver cells.

The study has been published online in Nature.

ANI