Monday, 26 September 2016

A new pathogen in Africa causes anthrax-like disease in wild and domestic animals




Date: September 8, 2016
Source: PLOS

Anthrax is caused by Bacillus anthracis, a pathogen that causes potentially fatal disease in most mammals, including humans. A study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases reports that a related bacillus with distinct genetic and biological characteristics causes anthrax-like disease in chimps, gorillas, elephants, and goats from four different African countries. Increased surveillance for this pathogen is needed to evaluate its impact on animal and human health.

Bacillus anthracis and its two close relatives, Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus cereus, are spore-forming bacteria naturally found in soil throughout much of the world. Their ability to cause disease depends on so-called virulence factors, some of which are encoded on plasmids (smaller parts of genetic material that can relatively easily be exchanged between bacteria) rather than the single chromosome. B. anthracis contains two such plasmids called pXO1 and pXO2, and both are required for full virulence.

Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues, had previously described an unusual B. cereus bacterium isolated from a sick chimpanzee in Ivory Coast. This isolate possessed both the pXO1 and pXO2 'anthrax' plasmids, but its chromosome was closely related to B. cereus and not to B. anthracis. Because the bacterium appeared to have evolved from a B. cereus strain independently from the classic B. anthracis strains and established a B. anthracis lifestyle, the researchers called it 'B. cereus biovar (bv) anthracis'.




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